The election results are starting to come out of Iraq. Now is the time to start looking at the institutional choices imposed on the recent Iraqi elections by the Bush administration and how they led to the current make up of the Iraqi constitutional assembly.
For over a year, critics of the Bush administration and even some of their supporters have warned that the worst thing for Iraq would be for the constitutional assembly to not include all the major groups in Iraq. The reasoning is that if one of the major groups is excluded from the process of building the constitution then the government that results from that new constitution will not be seen as legitimate by the excluded group. Such a situation would be a recipe for disaster.
The Bush administration chose to base the Iraqi elections on proportional representation (PR) with the votes counted in one big national district. In of itself, the PR system is not likely to have been a problem. But by counting all the votes in a single national district, the Bush administration set the stage for the disenfranchisement of the Sunnis. Here is the reasoning:
1) Violence in the Sunni areas has been far higher than in any other region of the country. US troops have been incapable of establishing order in that region. Despite calls for more troops, the US force levels have remained far below the levels said to have been necessary by many of the military experts mentioned in Dr. Strangelove's recent posting. The violence in the Sunni areas is so great that few were expecting good voting turnout there. In the end, the turnout in Anbar Province (the largest Sunni province) was only 2%. Turnout in the other provinces with large Sunni populations ranged from 17% to 34%. Baghdad's turnout was 48%. Turnout in the Shiite areas ranged from 61% to 73%. Turnout in the Kurdish areas ranged from 80% to 84%.
2) By counting the votes in one big district, the already minority Sunni community was made to appear even smaller by their disproportionately low turnout. The result is that there is virtually no Sunni representation in the Iraqi constitutional assembly. Shiite parties gained 48% of the vote. Kurdish parties gained 26%. The interim government/exile bloc got 14%. All other parties (including all Sunni based parties) got only 12%.
3) If instead of having a national district, the PR vote had been calculated by province, the low turnout in Sunni provinces would only have disenfranchised those factions that did not turnout. There would still have been Sunni representation in the assembly. Consider the following example. If only 2% of Texans vote, Texans still get two Senators and 32 representatives in the House. But if the US used one big national electoral district such a low turnout in Texas would make one of the most populous and important states in the country appear trivial in its significance.
So, while it was arguably not the Bush administration's fault that Sunni turnout was as low as it was (although this will spark debates about troop strength, tactics etc), it was certainly the Bush administration's fault that such a low turnout had the effect that it did.
Now the Kurdish leaders are calling for inclusion of Sunnis in the assembly despite the election results. Kurds probably see the Sunnis as potential allies to balance the Shiite bloc. We will see if Kurds succeed in bringing Sunnis into the process despite the institutional bias against them established by the Bush electoral system.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 7:20 PM