The elections were a success, but they do not ensure that Iraqis can now agree on a constitutional formula that accommodates the demands of all groups and keeps the country together. Democracy as separation of powers, checks and balances, and protection of individual rights has not proven enough to avoid conflict in other deeply divided societies.
Recent events in Egypt are again proving that far from championing democratic reforms, the Egyptian government continues to consolidate its own power. The January 29, 2005, arrest of Ayman Nour, a member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly and leader of the newly legalized liberal political party, Al Ghad (Tomorrow), serves as yet another example of Egypt’s persistent semiauthoritarianism.
The United States must let Iraq’s rulers govern with autonomy if insurgency is to be stamped out in the region
Iraq’s newly elected National Assembly (NA) will soon take up its major task—although hardly its only one—of drafting a permanent constitution. The task is to be completed in time to submit the draft constitution to a national plebiscite by October 15, 2005.
Marina Ottaway assesses the significance of the January 30 elections for the longer term process of building a democratic Iraqi state. No matter how flawed, the voting will force the various ethnic, religious and political groups in Iraq to confront each other and decide whether they can stay together in one country.
The most direct way to break the grip of inefficient, self-serving interests on state power is through the election of new political players not beholden to the same interest groups that supported their predecessors. This is true regardless of political bent and is demonstrated by recent history in postcommunist Eastern Europe.
The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), part of the Bush’s policy of promoting reform, is falling short and should be relaunched as a private foundation funded by the government. Such a relaunch would permit MEPI to develop greater expertise in the region, use more flexible, effective aid methods, and gain some independence from other U.S. programs and policies that serve conflicting ends.