Friday, December 30, 2005

The fix was in

One of the Juan Cole ten myths about Iraq concerns religious extremism in Iraqi politics:

"There is a silent majority of middle class, secular-minded Iraqis who reject religious fundamentalism."

The facts of two elections appear to disprove this widely held hope. Or do they? The Americans wrote the Iraqi constitution in English, and were nice enough to translate it into Arabic so the Iraqis who were supposed to be drafting it actually got a chance to read it. American experts crafted each part of it, including how the government would be selected (and did so in a time frame mandated by American political concerns, thus not having enough time to deal with the most important issues of federalism). You would think that Americans crafting a constitution would have created an electoral system based on the Greatest Democracy in the World, the U. S. of A. But you'd be wrong. Instead of a first-past-the-post system which encourages the formation of broadly based parties which distinguish themselves primarily on class, a system which would have forced Iraqis to compromise on sectarian issues in order to create a broad enough base to have a chance at winning power, the Americans appear to have looked around for the best system they could find and fastened their hopes on the system used by . . . Israel. Yes, they picked absolutely the worst possible system, one guaranteed to encourage the formation of many tiny parties based on religious or ethnic differences, with the tiniest microparties with the craziest extremists ending up holding the balance of power. We'll never know if Juan Cole is right about the nature of the majority of Iraqi voters as Iraqi voters will never get a chance to vote for a sane party system.

After the Americans set up an electoral system guaranteed to create a theocratic state which will fall apart into civil war, they either lie about it, claiming the Iraqi elections were a great victory for democracy, or pretend to be shocked at the outcome.