Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Missing Link - Sectarian Divisions Confirmed

It's not entirely surprising that the preliminary and partial figures from the Iraqi elections show that the vote went heavily along sectarian and national lines.

This is almost always the case in situations like these.

To build up political parties based on ideas rather than on identity - which are the foundations of most Western democracies - not only takes time, but also requires circumstances somewhat different from those often found in immediate post-crisis or post-conflict societies.

In Bosnia, many had hoped that there would be the emergence of so called non-nationalist groupings after the war. But not only had the politics of the country been split almost totally along so called national lines in the only free election prior to the war, it split more or less along the same lines after the war, and has remained essentially so ever since.

The experience of both Bosnia and Iraq shows that the building of political parties based on ideas rather than identity is the missing link in almost all efforts at state- and democracy-building in fractured societies and regions. And we do not as yet have a good answer.

In Iraq, it now looks as if the Shia United Islamic Alliance will get a support over the critical third of the seats. And it looks as if the more broadly based groups went virtually nowhere. That the alliance between the two Kurdish groups consolidated their hold over the Kurdish provinces was hardly surprising.

Now the Sunnis are talking about election irregularities. But few such were reported at the time. It seems as if we are dealing with a genuine election result.

Genuine - but nevertheless problematic.
Aljazeera.Net - Iraq announces initial election results