Iraq elections: a democratic façade for a US puppet state
By James Cogan
14 December 2005
Predictably, the Bush administration has told the American people that the elections in Iraq tomorrow will be a democratic milestone for both the country and the broader Middle East. The truth is that they will only produce greater conflict between the country’s main religious and ethnic groups, intensified social and class tensions and greater hostility among the Iraqi people toward the US-led occupation forces.
The entire US-controlled political process this year—the January 30 elections for a transitional government, the drafting of a new constitution and the referendum on October 15—has been aimed at giving the veneer of legal legitimacy to the plunder of the country’s oil and gas and the formation of a puppet government that will sanction an indefinite US military presence in Iraq.
This week’s ballot is the final stage. At stake are 275 seats in the next parliament, which will sit for the next four years and elect both the president and prime minister. Each of the country’s 18 provinces has been allocated a number of seats based on population. Baghdad, for example, the most populated province, will elect 59 parliamentarians. A total of 230 will be elected in the provinces. The remaining 45 will be chosen by a national proportional method.
Even if it wanted to, the new government would have next to no ability to reverse what the US invasion and occupation has already set in motion. Iraq’s economy is devastated, with unemployment close to 50 percent, growing malnutrition, dysfunctional social services and rampant corruption. The new constitution has already placed new oil developments under the control of regional or provincial governments, which have the power to sign long-term contracts with transnational companies.
To enforce this framework, the US military and the Iraqi security forces are conducting bloody operations in areas where guerilla resistance groups are active, at the cost of hundreds of lives each month. While there is talk of withdrawing up to 20,000 American troops next year, the foreign occupation force in Iraq will remain well over 100,000 for the foreseeable future.
Far from addressing this reality, the election campaign has been dominated by sectarian and communal appeals. The main coalitions and parties contesting the election have all accommodated themselves to the neo-colonial occupation and the corporate plunder of the country. They have no answers to the social catastrophe facing millions of Iraqis.
Ability to nominate as a candidate was severely restricted. Under the electoral laws imposed on Iraq by the US occupation, only people aged over 30 who possess a high school diploma were eligible. Given that the median age in Iraq is just 19, and that only 55.9 percent of the men and just 24.4 percent of women can read and write, the majority of the population was excluded from standing.