Monday, October 26, 2009

Nouri al Maliki's State of Law Coalition

Iraq's next national elections are in January 2010.

In yesterday's Times (here), Thomas Friedman writes that -- even as our focus continues to shift to Afghanistan -- the US should not lose sight of the critical importance of supporting the nascent democracy in Iraq.

Friedman says that the US should push the Iraqi government to hold "open list" elections, which would allow Iraqis to vote for individual candidates (rather than being limited to voting for parties). The 2005 elections did not use open lists, and Friedman thinks using closed lists next year would allow party insiders to maintain too much control.

337. Is part of Friedman's concern that fewer Iraqis will vote if they think the outcome is preordained by those already in power?

The open list vs. closed list issue reminds me of late 19th century American efforts to expand the use of primaries (rather than limiting candidate selection to party elders).

Friedman reports that Nouri al-Maliki is going to run, next year, as a candidate of the multi-sect State of Law coalition, whereas to date he has represented the Dawa Party. Dawa is exclusively Shiite, and Friedman believes that the decision by Maliki and others to use cross-sectarian parties represents a maturation in Iraqi democracy. Here's Maliki, as quoted by Friedman:
"Iraq cannot be ruled by one color or religion or sect ... We clearly saw that sectarianism and ethnic grouping threatened our national unity. Therefore, I believe we should bring all these different colors together and establish Iraq as a country built on rule of law and equity and citizenship. The Iraqi people encouraged us. They want this. Other parties are also organizing themselves like this. No one can run anymore as a purely sectarian bloc. ... Our experiment is very unique in this region."
Maliki is sounding like a real leader. Particularly in light of the shortcomings of Karzai in Afghanistan, the Administration must be fairly happy with Maliki's moderation.

338. In terms of government services, is Maliki "delivering the goods"? For example, has he developed a tax system that works and effectively uses oil revenues to pay for government programs?
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In a piece of good news from Friedman's article, there are now more than 100 newspapers in Iraq.

The bad news, however, is that yesterday two car bombs in Baghdad yesterday killed 132 people; this was the largest bombing in Baghdad since 2007 and is being described as an attempt to decrease people's faith in the ability of Maliki's government to maintain security. Here is a photo taken after the bombing; it was taken by Joao Silva and is in this morning's Times:

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