News Release

Aftermath of Iraqi Voting

ANTONIA JUHASZ
Juhasz wrote the recent article “Of Oil And Elections.” She said today: “The front-runner for the new Prime Minister of Iraq is Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq’s current Finance Minister who announced on Dec. 21 that his government was hoping to privatize its oil and that this would be ‘very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies.’ … Mahdi’s party, the United Iraqi Alliance, the leading Shia political party, is expected to win the majority of votes once they are tallied, particularly given the fact that, as reported by AP, polls were largely deserted in cities across the Sunni Triangle, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji. In the Sunni area of Azamiyah, the neighborhood’s four polling centers did not open at all.” Juhasz is project director at the International Forum on Globalization and a Foreign Policy In Focus scholar.
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ABBAS KADHIM
Kadhim has written several pieces on the elections, including “The Expatriate Vote” and “Hellish Elections.” He said today: “President Bush says that ‘By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists.’ They also have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of President Bush. He initially wanted to appoint a U.S. military ruler with a bunch of handpicked Iraqi advisors. Then his administration wanted to contract with a U.S. law professor to write the Iraqi constitution.” Kadhim is originally from Najaf, where he has family. He joined in the uprising against Saddam Hussein following the 1991 Gulf War. After the U.S. failed to back the Iraqis trying to overthrow the Iraqi dictator, Kadhim went to Saudi Arabia, where he was detained in a camp for over a year. He is now teaching at the University of California at Berkeley and finishing a doctorate in Islamic studies.
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FRANK BRODHEAD
Brodhead is co-author (with Edward S. Herman) of the book Demonstration Elections: U.S.-Staged Elections in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador and wrote the recent article “Reframing the Iraq Election.” He said today: “For the Bush administration, the main point of the Iraq election was to legitimize its occupation of Iraq by framing it as part of a transition to democracy. To succeed in this, the cooperation of the U.S. media was necessary, and they did not fail in their duty. Ignoring all issues that might call into question the validity and democratic qualities of the election — military occupation, martial law, lists of unknown candidates, inability of candidates to campaign, etc. -­ the U.S. media focused exclusively on the election-day events themselves, especially turnout. Meeting the needs of the Bush administration, the media framed the election as a drama pitting brave Iraqi voters seeking democracy against thuggish terrorists opposed to democracy on principle.”

Broadhead noted: “The Iraq election calls up memories of earlier U.S.-staged elections in which massive voter turnout was supposed to vindicate a U.S. invasion and occupation. The following was a New York Times headline on a report about the U.S.-staged election in Vietnam in 1967 — just a few months before the Tet Offensive: ‘U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror.’ (Sept. 4, 1967)”
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CARL CONETTA
Co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives, Conetta wrote the recent report “The Iraqi Election ‘Bait and Switch’: Faulty Poll Will Not Bring Peace or U.S. Withdrawal.” He said today: “President Bush, having labored for weeks to lower expectations about the Iraqi election, wasted no time Sunday before declaring the event a resounding success. The president swept aside concerns about the security situation distorting the vote. He similarly dispatched the problems of voter confusion, inadequate monitoring, and insufficient time and freedom for parties to campaign. For him, the measure of success was simply that the balloting had occurred, despite violence, and that millions of Iraqis had participated. But this much could have been achieved at any point in the past 18 months.”

Conetta continued: “Sunday’s ballot did not constitute a ‘first step’ in Iraq’s democratic journey. ‘Detour’ more accurately describes the event. It will produce a National Assembly that is badly skewed ethnically — an Assembly unlikely to unite the country and bring peace. The electoral process was biased in other ways, too. The expatriate-led parties favored by the United States entered the contest with incomparable advantages — courtesy of the occupation authorities. First among these advantages were the powers of office and incumbency. These gave the favored parties 18 months to build name recognition, patronage networks, and power bases. Members of the appointed governments also had easy access to the media and security services, which was especially important given the security situation.”

Connetta added: “While these issues will bear on the legitimacy of the new government, the policies it chooses to enact may matter more. The test of democracy does not end on election day. The new government will soon face another when it considers the issue of the U.S. military occupation. Opinion polls have made clear that most Iraqis do not support the occupation and want to see a quick end to it. How the new government deals with this issue will be an early indicator of how well it speaks for the people.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167