Monday, December 20, 2004

Saddam - a passionate democrat no longer 

The sad news of this Monday morning is that Saddam Hussein seems to be hell-bent on losing his long-standing democratic credentials:

"Another lawyer, Lebanese Adnan Dannawi, said that during the meeting Saddam asked to be briefed on developments in Iraq and was told by Mr Duleimi that the country was preparing to hold elections. 'At that point, the president said to Mr Duleimi the Iraqi people should "be wary of this issue",' Mr Dannawi said."
This is strange - Saddam, after all, has a long and proud history of holding elections, not to mention encouraging big turnouts. It's only just over two years ago that we were still reading reports from Baghdad such as this:

"Iraq declared Saddam Hussein the winner Wednesday with 100 percent of the votes in a referendum in which he was the sole candidate, perpetuating his two-decade reign and prompting bursts of celebratory gunfire in Baghdad's streets...

"The government offered no explanation for how it tabulated paper ballots from remote regions across the country of 22 million people overnight.

"The referendum was a simple 'yes' or 'no' vote on keeping Saddam in power another seven years.

"All 11,445,638 eligible voters cast ballots, [Izzat] Ibrahim [vice chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council] said. Iraqi officials said popular outrage at American threats to Saddam's regime made the turnout and percentage even higher than the last vote, in 1995, when Saddam received a 99.96 'yes' vote.

"In a sharply worded news conference broadcast live on Iraqi TV, Ibrahim dismissed a question terming the 100-percent affirmation for Saddam 'absurd.'

" 'Someone who does not know the Iraqi people, he will not believe this percentage, but it is real,' Ibrahim said. 'Whether it looks that way to someone or not. We don't have opposition in Iraq'."
How to explain the President's apparent dampening of his otherwise strong democratic streak? Perhaps Saddam knows that with the Republicans now in charge of his country, they will steal the election as surely as they stole the vote in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.


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