December 14, 2005


Iraqis Grasp the Art of TV Debate, With Gloves On: The airwaves are rife with candidate forums featuring polite speech in a nation torn by war. (Louise Roug, December 14, 2005, LA Times)

For the first time, the televised campaign debate has come to Iraq, and it has brought with it a level of civility and political discourse far different from that found on the nation's often bloody streets. [...]

Politicians are now free to use the medium of televised debates to expose voters to their styles, images and rhetorical flourishes. And here, the tone has been polite.

There have been few interruptions and fewer insults. In a country where eloquence is admired, canned sound bites have been rare.

"One and a half minutes is too short to answer the question," explained a Sunni Muslim Arab candidate during a debate among aspirants to the national assembly broadcast this week on the U.S.-funded Al Hurra television channel. Four other politicians sat respectfully at the conference table that had been draped with yellow satin. Later in the program, one candidate briefly interrupted to help clarify an opponent's point.

Back in the days of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi voters had one choice on their ballot. Now, with more than 7,600 candidates on various political slates vying for 275 four-year seats on the Council of Representatives, voters are spoiled for choice. Every night in recent weeks, debates featuring Shiite Muslim, Sunni Arab and Kurdish candidates, with TV journalists as hosts, have been broadcast across Iraq from studios in Baghdad.

No wonder they all hate us.

Iraq election messages get through (Jon Leyne, 12/14/05, BBC News)

Days before Iraq's general election, workers at the Iraqi Islamic Party stream out of their headquarters with armfuls of banners and posters. They have even persuaded footballing hero Ahmed Radhi to endorse them.

Inside the party offices there's a "war room", where party workers sit at a bank of computers exchanging the latest intelligence.

It could almost be a normal election. [...]

It's the first election under a constitution written by Iraqis themselves.

Iraqis take fight to political realm: Sunni candidacies intensify elections (Sa'ad al-Izzi and Thanassis Cambanis, December 14, 2005, Boston Globe)
The Sunnis' entry into a suddenly contested political race has helped galvanize a new era in Iraq's short political history.

After two static campaign seasons, Iraqi voters in recent weeks have witnessed a fierce battle in the final election of the year.

Political parties have suddenly unleashed the full power of attack ads, negative campaigns, and even threats to give the public its first taste of real competition: One party has sent cellphone text messages promising its followers a place in heaven; rivals accuse one another of being Ba'athist stooges; and opponents of the government accuse the police of ethnic mass murder.

It's all part of Iraq's first full-throttle campaign season, played out almost entirely through television ads, billboards, and posters, since it is far too dangerous for candidates to travel, hold rallies, or make public speeches.

The sleepy ads during January's national election and October's constitutional referendum usually featured still portraits of candidates, vague promises of safety and security, and for Shi'ite candidates, a claim of endorsements by Iraq's top ayatollah.

In the runup to tomorrow's election, which will choose Iraq's first National Assembly under the new constitution, that gentility has yielded to a fiery introduction to modern politics.

Sunni Bastion Now Turning to Ballot Box (EDWARD WONG, 12/14/05, NY Times)
Along the main boulevard here in Saddam Hussein's hometown, hundreds of campaign posters have flowered where insurgents once tossed homemade bombs at American troops.

The guerrilla war found fertile ground in Tikrit, and defiant Sunni Arabs boycotted the elections in January.

But turnout in the parliamentary elections on Thursday is expected to be high, reflecting the shift in attitude of many Sunni Arabs toward the American-engineered political process.

"Last January, the elections were quite different than they are now," Wael Ibrahim Ali, 61, the mayor of Tikrit, said as he strode Tuesday along the grounds of the palace where Mr. Hussein used to celebrate his birthdays. "The people refused to vote, and now they see it was a wrong stand or wrong position."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2005 8:16 AM

It's the terror of providing too many choices.

Further proof that the US is the leading terrorist state---and must be stopped.

(Of course, Juan Cole would say too many choices is absolutely no choice. And he's right, in his own juancolish sort of way; certainly, all good men, and women, ought to agree that having one choice makes things a whole lot easier.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 14, 2005 8:24 AM
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