Iraq’s Pre-Election Intimidation Continues
Iraqi’s "insurgents" are accelerating their intimidation campaign designed to destabilize or delegitimize the elections by increasing threats to those who are running and who may vote that ther participation could cost them their lives.
A piece in the New York Times focuses on this issue, noting that one tribal leader is defiant and will run, while the other one is going to sit on the sidelines now. But here are the "nut graphs" of this telling story:
The two men — both leaders of large Sunni Arab tribes — represent the dilemma for Iraq’s once-dominant branch of Islam. The Sunnis are the targets of an intimidation campaign by insurgents using violence to disrupt the elections. Under threat of death, they have been warned not to run, not to vote, not to participate.
If they stay away from the polls, the attackers’ logic goes, the elections will be seen as invalid, the fragile sectarian balance in Iraq will be upset, and Iraq might sink into a civil war among Sunni Arabs, the majority Shiite Muslims and the Kurds, who are Sunnis but are ethnically distinct from Iraq’s more numerous Arabs.
The Sunni Arabs are aware of the stakes. Some question whether they could live under a Shiite-dominated government and the form of Islamic rule they fear it would bring. They are faced with what might be a life-and-death choice: sit out their chance to share power in Iraq’s new government or plunge into democracy despite the threats.
For Sunni voters, the choice means whether to risk bombs and possible retaliation if they go to the polls Jan. 30. For their leaders, such as Jubouri and Asi, the choice is whether to risk meeting the same fate as the scores of candidates who have been killed for choosing to participate in the elections.
How much more graphically can you state what’s going on?
The sad part is that when these elections are over we’ll be hit with two very loud voices on this. One side will say "See? These elections weren’t legitimate and were flawed" even if a lot went right and there wasn’t any widespread indication of irregularities and some people stayed away from the polls in fear. The other will say "See? It’s as good as any election in any democracy" and will not admit to any flaws or downplay possible turnout problems.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In the end, this first free election after Sadaam’s fall may not be perfect. But clearly voters and candidates are going through it with guns literally held to their heads — and that says something about the desire in Iraq to give democracy a chance.