International House of Dan: Iraqi elections, religion and reforms at home

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Iraqi elections, religion and reforms at home

This should be brief. An Economist article on the upcoming Iraqi elections got me thinking about the subject, and then about our own elections, and the role of religion in both. ( The article notes something I found ironic, that Iyad Allawi is upset that some of his rivals are trying to gain votes by using religion as an issue. Interjecting religion into the election would clearly divide the electorate along deep-running faith lines, and could cloud the issues facing the voters. What's ironic is that this tactic, which worked great for Bush, could result in a political black eye for him if successful in Iraq. After all, Allawi is our choice, and despite his strengths is seen by some Iraqis as an American patsy. If he lost the election because of the fundamentalist religious vote (that just happens to be of a different religion than the fundamentalist religious vote here) that would be seen as a blow to the CPA, and as a sign that Iraq, which was mostly secular under the old regime, could be headed down the theocratic path. That's always worked well for us in the Middle East, right? Iraq's like-minded neighbors, who'd been slowly showing signs of liberalization might take a fundamentalist victory in Iraq as a disincentive to change.

What was neat about the article was this idea of unknown candidates. Granted, it's terrible that such a climate exists that political parties can't release the names of candidates for fear of assassination, but I wonder what that's like for the voters. Imagine an election in the U.S. where we voted for party platforms instead of hairstyles, where we looked at issue positions instead of personal characteristics that are unrelated to the job. What would the little old ladies in Iowa who vote against someone because he didn't like the pie at the fair have to base their decision on? I can picture both parties lining up their top figures to go across the nation, stumping for the party as a whole. The Republicans couldn't just present pro-choice, moderates like Giuliani, Schwarzenegger and McCain as "representative" of their positions, because their candidate would be held accountable to this platform. Of course in America we could never do that because the identity of the candidate would be leaked after about 10 minutes. Perhaps we could hold the primaries after the party vote, or something... Anyway, it was just a thought, one of those "what if?" ideas.

As a preview, I will try to throw something together later on the Supreme Court's latest decision on mandatory sentencing guidelines, and tomorrow there will be a full review of the MLS SuperDraft 2005 (with a focus on the Wizards, of course). Rumor has it we'll be shopping for offense, which is cool, though I have a hunch we'll be re-signing Igor as well, which would be very cool...


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