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Iraqi Democracy Remains Shaky Work in Progress

  • Scott Bobb

Ten years after the U.S. invasion that led to the end of Saddam Hussein's iron-clad rule, Iraqis say their young democracy is beset by many problems and its future is not certain.

Iraq has held four elections - two national and two provincial - and one referendum since the U.S.-led war a decade ago brought multiparty democracy here. Local elections are to be held next month and a national vote next year.

But local elections are not trouble-free. Amid sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites, they have been postponed for six months in two provinces because of unrest by Sunnis who feel marginalized by the current government.

Political analyst Taha Jallo Mare of the Center for Political Analysis says security has improved despite the continuing violence. But the tensions still threaten Iraq's stability.

"The political situation and the sectarian parties have the power to push the people into conflict. The people are patient and peaceful, but, if the conflict worsens, they will take sides in order to protect themselves."

Cynicism abounds

Some Iraqis have become cynical about their young democracy. They say the war replaced one dictator with many dictators. In Zawra Park, retired army general Basil Mohamed Ali says Iraq today needs a dictator.

"Life was much better under Saddam. A dictatorship is the best way to bring peace, unify the nation and unite the people."

Professor Montaser Idani disagrees adding that there are many types of democracies. He says the problem is that Iraq's leaders still have a mind-set from the Baath party era under Saddam.

"We need to make our [own] democracy. Our leaders are not the leaders to make the democracy for Iraq because they belong to the totalitarian thought, like the Islamists.... It [is] the same thing as the Baath problem."

But shop owner Lateef Saleh, in Baghdad's central market, is more philosophical.

"Democracy is something new for Iraq. It is a just a term and is not established on the ground. The disputes between the parties and the politicians makes for instability in the streets. All we can do is hope it gets better in the future."

He says the current leaders are stoking sectarian tensions for selfish reasons and hopes that in the future they will focus more on uniting Iraqis and the country.
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