I'm a bit confused about this whole Iraqi election thing

The elections in Iraq are coming up fast, just 18 days away now. One might think that this is some monumental turning point in Iraqs future until one takes a closer look at this thing called the elections.

Remember, this isn't like a presidential election where they vote on two guys, this is an election of the National Assembly which will be responsible for drafting a constitution. Idiots Some people call this Iraqs first voting experience and with alligator tears in their eyes get all sentimental talking about how great it is to see these backward people practice the grand art of voting for the first time. But people who make grand statements like that are usually fools who can't be bothered to know what they're talking about.

Before the war Iraq already had a 250 member National Assembly which was elected via parliamentary elections. The only real kink was that candidates were vetted by a government appointed election commission thus Baathists generally won about 70% of all the seats by loading the elections with people who professed loyalty to the Baathist Revolution. The rest was usually won by Baathist allies or independents.

Of course, I assume that the Baathists also counted the vote so the vote was never transparently honest (probably won't be now either) but the fact is that voting is not anything new to Iraq. (Interestingly, women usually fared about as well if not better in Iraq's National Assembly elections as they do here in the United States. For example, 33 women were elected to the 250 person Assembly in Iraq in 1984 whereas only 24 women served in the 435 member U.S. House of Representatives during the whole decade of the 80s.)

We really haven't created a new system for the Iraqis, we've only given the same system without Baathists. This is good, of course, but since Baathists are no longer around to load the elections with their own people, one might wonder what kind of people are running for election this year.

The simple fact is this: No one knows. None of the candidates will publicize their name for fear of assassination.

Juan Cole has a list of Iraqi political parties and how many people each has registered to run in the elections. If my shell script did the math correctly, the list adds up to 7734 people running for office in Iraq on Jan 30. Yet the people of Iraq don't know any of their names or what they stand for or what their goals and ideas are or anything. They just know that these unknown people are supposed to form a new Constitution for Iraq. How do you choose who you want as leader from a list of anonymous people?

Dear voter, since we have ridded ourselves of corrupt Baathists, we are proud to hold fair and honest elections for a change. Please pick which one truly represents you from this list:


Thank you for voting!

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