Our Election

Our Election

On 30 January 2005 Iraqis go to the polls. What are they thinking?

openDemocracy 21 - 1 - 2005

On 30 January many Iraqis voted in their first direct multiparty elections since 1953. They did not vote for a president or prime minister but a National Assembly of 275 members. The National Assembly will in turn select a “presidency committee”, whose task it will be to choose a prime minister.

The National Assembly will also draft a permanent constitution, which will be voted on in a referendum by December 2005.

These elections are just the initial stage of a long process, and could even be the first of three to be held this year.

What follows are the views of nineteen Iraqis from all over the world on their election. A range of perspectives, including journalist Ayub Nuri who opposes elections while Coalition forces are still in Iraq; activist Huda Jawad who feels that voting is a way of defining her rights as an Iraqi citizen; student Majed Jarrar who doesn’t think the elections will make any difference; poet Fadhil Assultani who has been waiting for this moment for twenty-six years.

This feature is part of openDemocracy’s ongoing coverage of the Iraq crisis through the eyes of Iraqis themselves. To read more see our earlier debates Iraqi Voices, Iraq: war or not? , and Iraq – the war & after.

Dlawer Ala’aldeen, academic

The elections are a very exciting moment. I went down to London to register and it gave me a great feeling. At least it gives us a way of thinking that we’re laying a foundation for the future. In spite of all the difficulties and problems it has to be done. I’m very positive about it, but also realistic.

Iraq is occupied and may well remain so for some long time to come. It is impossible to wait until then. We cannot delay having official representation and elected leaders. It’s the elections that will end the occupation, not the other way round. They are not mutually exclusive.

I share a lot of the concerns that people have: this is not an ideal election. It’s hampered by violence and boycott. Large sections of the population won’t be able to vote. Even the lists of people or parties who present themselves as candidates have not had either the chance or the will to explain their manifesto or program; voters are going simply by names and reputations.

There will be a lot of violations and illegitimate voting. But this is inevitable given the vacuum power in Iraq, and the artificial and unnatural circumstances the Iraqi people are living in.

It is going to be a very stressful exercise, but the fact that elections are happening is what is making people excited.

I am realistic about this, I’m not living in a dream. No candidate or ‘list’ can come out 100% legitimately elected because the political process itself doesn’t yet have the foundation or legitimacy, but what is our alternative?

The six Iraqi roundtable participants are: