This Is A Call

I’ve been catching up on the Iraqi elections via the NYT and the Guardian.

There were about 14,000 candidates, 30% of which are female. The turnout was 51% – which seems disappointing, but is apparently quite high for provincial elections. Apparently about a million Iraqis have been displaced by sectarian fighting over the last five years and have not returned to the provinces where they are registered to vote. They’ve got a better excuse than most Britons.

A couple of days ago Jonathan Steele predicted ‘a turn against religious parties’; reporting that:

Only a tiny minority of the more than 14,000 contenders identified themselves as religious, and even the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, changed the name of his list of candidates to the Coalition for a Government of Laws.

The NYT agrees with this:

The relative success of the secular parties may be a sign that a significant number of Iraqis are disillusioned with the religious parties that have been in power but have done little to deliver needed services.

‘This really reflects that Iraqi society is looking for alternatives — they do not necessarily believe that the Islamists should lead the country,’ said Qassim Daoud, a member of Parliament and one of the leaders of an independent, secular-leaning party. ‘The public are interested in services, and this election has shown them that they can change anything by democratic means if they are not satisfied.’

In fact, according to William Shawcross, the theocratic bloc was absolutely hammered:

All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called ‘Shia firebrand’, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out.

Instead, a new generation of Iraqi politicians is coming forward. Many of them are young and secular. They have lived always in Iraq, not in exile; they are Iraqis with local roots first and foremost – they are not pan-Arabs or pan-Islamists. Nor do they have connections to the US.

So much for the Glorious Homegrown Resistance™.

Norm links to some views from the Iraqi blogosphere but over here there’s been little comment – nothing from the Continuity Eustonites, still less from those tireless anti-imperialists who – what’s that Marx quote that Hitchens always uses? – when ‘learning a new language, they habitually translate it back into the one they already know.’

This suggests that widespread democracy in the Arab world would not constitute, as Sam Harris claimed, a ‘gangplank to theocracy’. One could even extrapolate the view that most Middle Eastern Muslims do not want to live under a theocratic regime: a view also borne out by the substantial migration from Islamic to secular countries.

One thing is clear: the parties of God lost one today.

iraqielections

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