The Bush administration is pushing for elections in Iraq sometime next year. This extremely accelerated timetable is dangerous. Early elections in postconflict situations can produce unstable results and favor radical groups over still-emergent moderate forces.
Because the administration has made elections a requisite for Iraqi sovereignty and faces growing pressure to transfer sovereignty, delaying elections is not an option. The solution is to limit the current constitution writing to an interim document that provides the framework for the election of a constituent assembly and an interim government of national unity. This would produce an elected Iraqi government to which sovereignty can be transferred and create a framework for the longer-term process of political consensus building necessary to create permanent democratic institutions.
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About the Authors
Marina Ottaway is senior associate and Thomas Carothers is director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment.
Arab Reform Bulletin. New e-monthly addressing political reform in the Middle East. Go to www.ceip.org/signup to subscribe.
Is Gradualism Possible? Choosing a Strategy for Promoting Democracy in the Middle East, Thomas Carothers
Political Reconstruction in Iraq: A Reality Check, Marina Ottaway and Judith S. Yaphe
Promoting Democracy in the Middle East: The Problem of U.S. Credibility, Marina Ottaway
Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism, Marina Ottaway
Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve, Thomas Carothers