One of the things that I was looking forward to on this deployment was being in Iraq for at least one and possibly two elections. I was certain that the provincial elections would take place while I was deployed. National elections were also scheduled to take place during my time here but I suspect they will get delayed until after I return home.
However, provincial elections were held the last day of January. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were responsible for ensuring the security of this election, Coalition Forces providing reinforcements as directed by ISF. As a result, I did not get to see the election as up close and personal as I’d hoped. I did have several opportunities to talk with Iraqis prior to the elections. They talked about their dissatisfaction with elected officials and their lack of confidence in the government as a whole. Over the coming weeks, I will have more opportunities to talk with Iraqis about their perception of the election.
Over the past week I’ve been reading news reports and thinking about the election results, trying to figure out how to talk about them here. Today, I came across an article from the BBC which says it much better than I might. I’ve quoted some of the key points that I think are most significant. I highly encourage you to read the article itself. It is without exception the best assessment of the election and its significance that I have seen. Great analysis.
That is not just a security achievement, but a huge step forward in Iraq’s political development and the emergence of a real democratic culture.
They learned, for the first time, that they could hold those they elected to account, and change them if they failed to meet expectations.
On both the Shia and Sunni sides, there was a clear shift away from the Islamic religious parties which dominated Iraqi politics after the 2005 elections.
The emphasis has been on capability, performance, honesty, and national commitment rather than religious credentials.
The Iraqi people have tasted freedom and democracy. They have tasted the wine of self-rule. I believe that in the creation and development of a democratic society what is most important is ensuring the next election. The most important milestone in measuring Iraq’s progress toward becoming a secure, economically stable, democratic state is the next election. The International community must make it clear to Iraq that they are watching and they will ensure that the next election is held.
Lastly, I wonder if history will be more kind to Mr. Bush than pop culture has been. Cries of ‘worst president ever’ are as ignorant and arrogant as presuming that someone will be a great president before they’ve even been elected. Whatever else you want to say, a portion of the credit for the successful elections in Iraq belong to Mr. Bush.