Pseudo-election in Iraq and other occupied states

08 04 2005

Elections make no sense in Iraq, as in any occupied country. An election is not a magic ritual that makes ‘just’ every country where it takes place – elections must comply with at least minimal criteria of free choice.

The criteria of free election

How is he going to vote?
US officials teach democracy to an Iraqi

Elections take place in most countries: in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the US, in the People’s Republic of China and Britain, in Belarus and Lithuania… Yet it does not mean that in all the countries the voters have equal rights to decide for whom they want to occupy the highest political positions.

For being ideal, i.e. meaning the free choice of representatives, every voter should be able to choose every person, who would best represent their interests. This is not feasible, however, because, besides technical reasons, the great majority of normal people would never like to become politicians. Therefore, voters have to choose from limited lists of registered candidates, while elections can be judged only upon the extent they meet the minimum criteria of free choice.

Elections take place in many places of the world: in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the US, in the People’s Republic of China and Britain, in Belarus and Lithuania….

Election pundits from North America and Western Europe are fond of referring to the notion of free, ‘western’ or ‘democratic’ election. For an election to be ‘just’, it has to satisfy certain ‘universal’ criteria, i.e. it has to resemble the elections that take place in the US or other prosperous countries.

It often happens that experts invent special ‘universal’ evaluation criteria for an election. Therefore, they usually praise friends, allies and satellites, while steadily criticizing the elections and, thus, the ‘state of democracy’ in hostile, economically inconvenient or simply ‘stubborn’ states. (This way democracy in the Ukraine became perfect just in one day, when Victor Youshchenko was elected as president)

Yet all the experts from ‘the West’ agree about at least three basic criteria of free election – certain rights and freedoms, equal and unrestricted, must be guaranteed:

  • Right to free voting;
  • Right to stand for election;
  • The freedoms of speech and association – voters have to get the true information about those for whom they vote, therefore, the freedom of the media is necessary; all the candidates must have equal possibilities to found political organizations.

The US and the European Union always criticize elections in the countries they do not like, especially Iran, Belarus or Russia, usually expressing indignation about the governments’ intolerance of subversion. However, in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the experts in democracy from the occupant-states do not mention at all that not even one of the criteria can be fulfilled in occupied countries.

Elections in occupied countries – right to free voting

Military occupation creates an atmosphere of psychological violence. Every occupational army is prone to cruelty and humiliation of the conquered; therefore, its presence results in insecurity and fear. People who are fired at for any reason are always in the condition of stress and mistrust.

Free voting is only possible when the voters are confident in the secrecy of the voting process, the reliability of the election supervisors and first of all – in their own security.

Even if the occupants decided to guarantee secrecy of the election, the conquered would not be able to believe it. Therefore, most people do not dare to vote for candidates not supported by the occupants, who they would prefer otherwise. For the same reason some voters tend to cast their votes for the most faithful collaborators.

Lithuanians have been familiar with this phenomenon since 1940, when they ‘unanimously accepted’ joining the Soviet Union that had recently occupied Lithuania. Stalin was excellent in manipulating scared people. In many countries occupied by the Soviet Union the impressive majorities of the voters, including those who certainly disliked the very idea of Communism participated at various elections and voted for communists. People were afraid of repressions and did not want to take any unnecessary risk, being very well aware of their inability to change anything.

Therefore, there is no point in even speaking about equal and unrestricted vote in occupied states. It is possible only when the voters are confident in the secrecy of the voting process, the reliability of the election supervisors and first of all – in their own security. People, who fully depend on the mercy of the occupants, can be called ‘voters’ only ironically.

The right to free voting in occupied Iraq

The Iraq election of 2005 was no different. In most Sunny-controlled areas, people were scared of possible retaliations by the Resistance. On the other hand, in the areas dominated by Shiite, nobody could guarantee security for the people, not marked as ‘voted’ on the lists at the disposal of those in the actual power, because both the occupants and the collaborators were notorious for their cruelty.

In the areas dominated by Shiite nobody could guarantee security for the people, not marked as ‘voted’ on the lists.

In addition, some Iraqis were dependent on financial or food benefits from the occupational or collaborating authorities. Many of them had reasons to be afraid of dooming their family to starvation in the case they refused to participate in the election or voted in the ‘wrong’ way. Finally, members of the Resistance, fighting for freedom of their homeland were barred from the election for obvious reasons.

Elections in occupied countries: right to stand for an election

All active fighters of the Resistance are removed from the list of candidates, while most of them would be elected as patriots of their homeland. The history of occupations shows that prominent leaders of the Resistance usually win at least the first free election in recently liberated countries.

Even those popular leaders who oppose the occupation although do not take part in armed fighting have few chances of being included into the list of candidates. The occupants or the collaborating government can easily find out ‘legal’ reasons sufficient to destroy the careers of ‘inconvenient’ politicians. It happens from time to time even in ‘western’ countries; in an occupied country, a phone call to a certain minister of the collaborating government would do usually.

The US and especially the CIA are famous for their skills at ‘neutralizing’ inconvenient politicians. Even Mahmoud Abbas, so much favoured by Israel and the US, won the Palestine presidential election by miraculous chance of Yassir Arafat’s death just after Israel had murdered the popular leaders of the HAMAS.

Therefore, an equal right of all citizens of standing for election is a complete fiction in the case of occupation. No matter who is the occupant  – whether Stalin, Bush, or somebody else, voters have to choose from occupant-friendly candidates, whom they often even never heard of. In the case of Iraq, it is extremely hard to believe that any of the candidates had not guaranteed their loyalty to the US.

Elections in occupied countries: the freedoms of speech, associations and the media

Finally, the basic human freedoms are neither feasible in occupied countries. They can be guaranteed only to the people who are loyal to the occupation authorities. All political parties and public organizations, which declare their determination to fight against the occupants, automatically become illegal. Encouraging resisting the occupation or even making public any information unfavourable to the occupants is a sufficient reason for taking ‘legal’ action against a politician or a media channel.

Iraq and Afghanistan are no exception. The fairly independent media that intend to reflect all the different positions face the fate of the Al Jazeera television. Therefore, the journalists who do not guarantee their loyalty have to content themselves with press releases from occupant or collaborating authorities.

The special services of the US are famous for their skills at ‘neutralizing’ inconvenient politicians.

Even criticizing the collaborating government or the very occupation of Iraq can result in political imprisonment for a potential political leader. In occupied states, there always is an excuse for the imprisonment of an inconvenient person. Brutal humiliation or torture to death? – As the few pictures from Abu Ghreib jail have demonstrated to the world, we can only guess, what such political prisoners are more likely to face in the occupied Iraq.

Spectacle of election

Therefore, any election in occupied countries is rather a spectacle of legitimacy building. The Iraq election of 2005, just like any election in any occupied country, did not comply with even minimal criteria of a free or ‘western’ election. It resembles its counterparts, which Stalin organized in the communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

The government formed by such election has nothing in common with free choice of voters, thus, recognising it as a democratically elected representative of the nation of Iraq, some states once more betray the values they pretend to promote.

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©  Giedrius // 2005 - 2024