Consolidating Iraqi Democracy: The Institutional Context
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Can constitutional democracy unfold in Iraq? Noah Feldman details a hybrid model of democracy-building currently under way in Iraq whose outcome is far from certain. Iraqi exiles, selected by the U.S. occupation force, formed a governing council to help draft a constitution. But these Iraqis were not elected representatives of the people, and Shiite leaders protested that such a constitution would not be viable. Says Feldman: “What do you do? You fake it and … call things other than what they are.” So instead of a constitution, the governing council wrote a “transitional administrative law.” But Sunni Arabs steered clear of the council, and of subsequent Iraqi elections. Feldman says they were “intimidated by people who threatened to kill them.” As a result, the insurgency continues and in some places, “fear that goes into making everyday decisions is comparable to that under Saddam’s rule.” Feldman believes that the lack of security, for which the U.S. is to blame, “threatens the emergence of a democratic structure going forward.”
Kanan Makiya sees a fundamental crisis of post-war Iraqi leadership leading the country to breakdown. Because the U.S. chose the governing council, they got “a beautiful but ineffectual body from the governing point of view.” From the start, Iraqis had no actual say in the reconstruction of their country, which led to low morale. Then Iraq had “a magnificent moment where eight million people came out to vote, an important statement about the insurgency and about the future. But in the eyes of much of the public, that moment is being traded away by politicians.” The Shiite majority must cultivate Sunni leadership, and the sense of personal victimhood most Iraqis carry with them must be replaced “by an idea of Iraq that’s bigger than my own personal suffering.”
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