December 15, 2005


Baghdad falls quiet as Zarqawi threatens poll (Anton La Guardia Diplomatic Editor and Oliver Poole in Baghdad, 15/12/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi vowed to disrupt today's general election in Iraq as a nationwide travel ban was imposed to reduce the threat of car bombings.

With Iraqi exiles starting to cast their ballots, including in Zarqawi's home town of Zarqa in Jordan, a statement issued by his branch of al-Qa'eda announced "a blessed conquest to shake up the bastions of non-believers and apostates and to ruin the 'democratic' wedding of heresy and immorality".

Nice of him to put down a marker by which whether we can determine quite easily whether he's prevaili8ng and John Murtha is right, or whether democracy is prevailing and the President right.

Challenge of governing falls to Iraqis (Thanassis Cambanis, December 15, 2005, Boston Globe)

Once it takes office, the government will decide whether to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces, how to fight the insurgency that is plaguing huge swathes of the country, and how best to woo disenfranchised such groups as Sunni Arabs into the political process.

How it resolves these issues will determine whether Iraq charts a course of steady if incremental progress, or whether groups straddling the fence decide to reject the entire political process and act as spoilers.

''We are taking it much more seriously" than the January vote that installed Iraq's first freely elected government, said Adil Abdel Mahdi, a Shi'ite Islamist politician who is one of Iraq's vice presidents and represents the dominant Shi'ite Alliance in the current government.

The prospect of a four-year government, which will have the power to revisit the constitution approved in October, has even lured Sunni Arabs who boycotted the vote nearly a year ago back to the polls.

''This election will decide the future of the country," Abdel Mahdi said in an interview.

While this election eventually will have dramatic results for Iraq, they won't come soon.

Results of the vote won't be announced for two weeks, and it could take up to four months for the political parties to agree on who should form a new government. Until the new government takes office, the current coalition would stay in power as a caretaker.

Even when a permanent government emerges, it probably will spend its first few months revisiting the constitution; all amendments to alter the document must be proposed four months after the 275-seat assembly is sworn in.

Only after the new government deals with these procedural issues and debates dry-sounding questions like federalism will it turn to the major issues that have driven rifts into Iraqi society.

It will have to negotiate with the insurgency, distribute Iraq's oil wealth, and decide whether to allow former members of the Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to join the government.

Voter turnout will go a long way to determining the election's credibility among Sunni Arabs.

One of the many salutary effects of our troop withdrawals will be to hasten that timetable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2005 12:00 AM
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