Sunday, October 16, 2005

Iraqi referendum victory for democracy?

I was asked just last night about the Iraqi constitutional referendum and whether or not it would be a victory for democracy. I asked for the clarification, since I was genuinely confused about the question. (Why that was the case will soon be obvious.) Would it still be a victory for democracy, it was asked, if the Iraqis rejected the constitution as submitted?

The question makes no sense - unless you're starting with the concept that it's only a victory if the vote goes a particular way. That concept misses the point of democracy. The issue isn't whether a vote goes one way or the other. It's whether the vote occurs at all under conditions where you have any real confidence that the results of the vote - one way or the other - will be respected by the government and the citizenry. So, in answer the question, it was a victory for democracy the second the polls opened. It was another when they closed. Violence there was, yes, but the vaunted "insurgent uprising" was very sporadic and completely ineffectual.

It was another victory that the security was being handled in the largest measure, by the Iraqi forces themselves. Omar over at Iraq the Model writes:

::::::::Probably the worst thing today is the intense heat which was a little over 100f but that didn’t stop the crowds from walking in the sun to the voting stations, I personally had to walk nearly 4 miles in total but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The presence of Iraqi army and police units is heavier than it was in January elections and I also noticed that no multinational forces were on the streets and the only sign for their presence was the helicopters that patrolled the skies.

Emphasis mine. The turnout is also judged as being fairly high. Initial estimates are that the percentage turnout was about 61%, respectable in any regard. The AP story is trying to spin that as negatively as they can by saying the reason for the high turnout was due to the Sunnis trying to defeat the measure. And this is bad for democracy, how? The Sunnis, you'll note, aren't trying to defeat the measure by calling for jihad or engaging in armed insurrection. Their weapon is a ballot and their battlefield is the polling place. This is democracy, ladies & gentlemen, regardless of the outcome of the vote. And that makes this a victory for democracy, hands down. This is something to celebrate all on its own.

So, where are the pictures of the purple-fingered Iraqi voters? Where are the reporters talking about this grand day in glowing terms about a brighter future for Iraq? These people are now participating in their second national vote and turnout is supposed to be higher in real numbers than the first time. They're getting this democracy thing, folks, and that was the point. Democracies can breed terrorists, too, but it's far more rare than dictatorships. So why is this event getting the "ho-hum" treatment? Or, even worse, the "impending doom" treatment? I'm not the only one who'd like to know.

Yes, it's a victory. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether certain parts of our society will recognize it as such. For my part: Congrats, Iraq! Well done, indeed.