The Guardian reports on the historic first democratic constitution adopted by an Arab country in a referendum. Jonathan Steele’s piece, which appears to be a news story and not an opinion column, drips with the bitterness of defeat:
Iraqi voters adopted the country’s new constitution in spite of heavy opposition in Sunni Arab areas, Iraqi and United Nations officials announced yesterday. The result was delayed by more than a week after officials said preliminary results showed an “unusually high” number of yes votes but, after checking, the election commission said it was satisfied the constitution had passed.
The results underlined Iraq’s growing sectarian and ethnic polarisation, with huge yes votes recorded from Shiites and Kurds and massive no votes from Sunni Arabs. In what analysts saw as a sign of anger at the Kurdish role in promoting a constitution that hands power from Baghdad to the provinces, a car bomb killed nine people yesterday in Sulaimaniya, one of the main Kurdish cities.
…..Sunni Arab members of the constitution’s drafting committee denounced the result as rigged. “I have just prayed to God that he will expose the truth about what is happening in Iraq. We all know that this referendum was fraud conducted by an electoral commission that is not independent,” said Hussein al-Falluji.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, another member of the committee, called the referendum a farce and accused government forces of stealing ballot boxes to reduce the percentage of no votes in several provinces. “The people were shocked to find out that their vote is worthless because of the major fraud that takes place in Iraq,” he said on Al-Arabiya TV.
And here is a line from the final doom-laden paragraph which reveals a lot about Steele’s thinking:
The result gives President Bush a political boost by paving the way for national elections on December 15, the next milestone in his effort to show progress towards democracy in Iraq.
Got that? The adoption of Iraq’s democratic constitution is a political boost not for Iraq and it’s long suffering people but for George Bush. And the elections will be a milestone not in progress towards democracy in Iraq but in “his effort to show progress”.
Its still about Bush isn’t it? Millions turn out to vote for a second time in Iraq and choose a democratic constitution but its still all about an American. Just who are the ones trying to impose Western values?
But I’m beginning to wonder. Is this sort of reaction really just resentment at the fact that a right-wing Republican has promoted a war which is leading to the creation of a democratic republic in Iraq?
Or is it not more the case that the likes of Steele actually find something deeply horrifying in the very idea of Arabs choosing democracy.
Update: In contrast here is Rosemary Righter in The Times:
Since the euphoria of their first chance at the vote last January, thousands of Iraqis have lost limbs and lives at the hands of terrorists and insurgents bent on inciting civil war. They have chafed under a weak, bickering Government that most Iraqis would say has done precious little to improve their lives. Yet even more people voted this time than in January.
The robustness of the Iraqi commitment to the political process is beyond remarkable. So listen, you defeatists and cynics who said that this couldn’t be done, shouldn’t even be attempted: however confused the outcome may be, the democracy that you patronisingly declared that Iraqis could never handle is taking shape. By all means sneer when Bush and Blair talk about progress, but lay off the Iraqi people. They are not the benighted fools you took them for; and their courage puts us all to shame.