Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When democracy becomes infectious 

Seems like the democratic bug is really catching on across Iraq. It doesn't take much to get the Kurds and most Shias to the polling stations, but judging by the recent frenzy, there will be crowds going to the constitutional referendum right across the country. The recalcitrant Sunnis have been doing most of the leg work to catch up:
Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaie, of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, told worshippers at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque to register for the upcoming votes because "we are in need to your voice to say 'yes' for the constitution or 'no.'
According to another report:
The general conference of Sunnis in Iraq, which includes "the Sunni Mortmain", "the Association of Muslim Scholars", "the Iraqi Islamic Party", and a group of Sunni parties and organizations, was held in Baghdad and has urged all Arab Sunnis to participate in the coming elections.

In his speech before hundreds of attendees, Ahmed Abdel Ghafur Al Samera'i said, "Participating in the plebiscite on the constitution is a prescribed duty for all Sunnis."

He added, "I swear to Allah that the greatest privilege, through which you gain the love of Allah, is your efforts in participating in the coming elections and gathering the Sunnis, hoping that Allah would alleviate their suffering."

Alaa Maki, member of the political bureau in the "Iraqi Islamic Party", has confirmed, "The party has suggested the provision of cities of Sunni majority with additional lists, so that everyone would be able to register their information in the electors and plebiscite on the permanent constitution records."
One of the interesting aspects of the new "no Sunni left behind" campaign is its overtly religious trappings. At Iraq the Model you can check out the flier being distributed by the Islamic Party, convincing Sunnis that voting is a religious duty, supported by Koran and religious tradition. What a difference a few months can make.

Even the dreaded Fallujah is catching on:
Falluja's clerics council advised the Imams of the mosques and the people not to miss this historical chance and to take part in it through the four centers opened there. Community leaders and clerics organized lectures to educate the people about the importance of their participation and that the constitution is for the interests of all Iraqis, which will decide their identities."
As this report explains:
In Fallujah, considered one of the major hotbed of Iraqi insurgency, clerics of mosques called on the residents in the city to participate in the constitution referendum scheduled to be held in mid October.

They urged the residents through loudspeakers to participate and say "no" to those who want to isolate them from the political process.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party, also distributed handouts calling on the people to participate the referendum. Many of the residents showed support and desire to participate.
Four registration centers have now been open in Fallujah, and apparently they're doing great business.

Most bizarrely, both the main Sunni insurgent group, Ansar Al Sunna, as well as Shia radical Muqtada al Sadr, have been calling on supporters to register to vote in the constitution referendum:
[One] statement issued by six of the seven Ansar groups promised that there will not be attacks against Americans on the day of the referendum, 'to protect those who go to vote.' 'Voting is a jihad of words and is no different from the jihad of the sword,' the statement said. 'There are no objections to participation in the referendum to show the world our strength and to defeat federalism'.
Just about the only person who doesn't want to vote in the coming referendum is Al Zarqawi - which is just as well, because as a Jordanian citizen he wouldn't be eligible to.

"Jihad of words" - I like it. If the insurgent morons have thought about it two years ago it's quite likely that Iraq would have a stable government by now and the Coalition forces would have been in the middle of withdrawal.

The big test, of course, will not be what happens on the voting day, but afterwards - that is, whether everyone will accept the results and move in a peaceful manner. It's been said often enough that democracy is a process, not an event (one of Glenn Reynolds' favorite phrases). There are no guarantees that the unhappy will not revert to violence after the poll, but so far, at least, the signs are encouraging.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, while the Taliban will not be voting in the parliamentary election, the movement has announced that they will not be targeting polling stations. Killing civilians exercising their democratic right just doesn't seem so popular anymore.


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