The key to Iraqi reconciliation
The AP reports: "BAGHDAD – Iraq's Parliament cleared the way Wednesday for provincial elections that could give Sunnis a stronger voice and institute vast changes in Iraq's power structure after the Oct. 1 vote." This is a critically important development. Here's why. (Hat tip: Fausta)
This measure is vital to institutionalizing the gains won by the Surge. Iraq has long been crippled by the defective, UN-designed "closed-party list" voting system, which created political parties based on sectarian affiliation. A UN website describes why it adopted this system. It had the advantage of being easy ("no census is required") and creating what in the UN view was an appropriate structure of political coalitions. The trouble was the system encouraged the very same fraction that took Iraq to the brink of civil war.
One of the key problems facing strategists of the Surge was to find a way to institutionalize the grassroots movement of the past year. Former insurgents would of course, be retrained and put under the discipline of the Army or Police. But what of the political leaders? The natural path was to encourage the leadership which emerged during the Surge to stand for office, which proved very difficult to do under the closed-party list system. They were dressed up with no place to go.
The impasse in Baghdad is partly the result of a logjam of sectarian interests. There are also a fair number of politicians, who because of the sectarian nature of the coalitions, are stooges of Teheran. A new election law could sweep the logjam away in a flood, with the stooges in the bargain. Electoral reform is supremely important for long term success. It is the linchpin of "reconciliation".
The new law is one of the most sweeping reforms pushed by the Bush administration and signals that Iraq's politicians finally, if grudgingly, may be ready for small steps toward reconciliation.
Passage of several pieces of legislation, along with a reduction in violence, were the primary goals of the U.S. troop increase that President Bush ordered early last year. Still pending and not likely to face positive action soon ...
The more reason to inform the American public of the logic behind electoral reform and why it is so vital. Iraqi and American lives have taken the country back from the brink of civil war and on the approaches to normalcy. But the last steps are the most important. This is where it all pays off.