The Handover Dilemma
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
has reached a critical stage in its transition towards democracy.
Committee, set up back in August by the Governing
Council, has failed to provide a solution for the problems
surrounding the selection of delegates to write the draft
constitution and little progress has been made to resolve
Governing Council has an upcoming deadline on December
15th to submit a timetable, for the drafting
of the constitution and general elections, to the UN Security
this backdrop are the forthcoming US
Presidential elections, due to be held at the
end of 2004.
has suddenly flown to Washington, canceling a
planned meeting with the visiting Polish prime minister
at the last minute. This clearly demonstrates that something
urgent and important is about to be decided upon.
problem is essentially that of time:
Iraqis and many Governing Council members hold the view
that the constitution is the most important component
for Iraq's future democracy and stability, and as such
do not accept anything less than general elections to
choose delegates for the national assembly that is due
to write the draft constitution. However, general elections
will require a census, as well as other organization,
before they can be held. Such a process would require
significantly more time compared to simply hand-picking
UN Security Council resolution requires that power is
handed over to an internationally recognized, representative
Iraqi government. The thinking has always been that the
coalition hands over power to an elected Iraqi government,
following completion and acceptance by Iraqis of a constitution.
However, with US Presidential elections at the end of
2004, Bush is under pressure to make sure power and responsibility
has been transferred over to Iraqis and most troops have
returned before elections.
has reached a fork in the road. In essence the dilemma comes
down to which is more important:
constitution written by elected Iraqis who, it can be
said, truly represent Iraqis,
leaving Iraq in the hands of elected Iraqis?
is clear that Iraqis place greater importance on the former
and therefore it is only logical that external time constraints
should not influence Iraq's political process, a mistake
that could easily spell years of instability for the country
and region. Surely a strong democratic basis can only be
built by a constitution that is written democratically.
undertake such an option means that power and responsibility
will be handed over to the Governing Council and its cabinet,
in a transitional government. The UN Security Council resolution
only specifies that handover should be to an internationally
recognized, representative Iraqi government - it does not
specify whether this should be elected or not, so this option
would not be in breach of any resolutions.
last week has seen intense scrutiny of the Governing Council,
with claims that it is not
representative enough and even talks of scrapping
it. While the council is the most representative
Iraqi government in all of Iraq's history, there are still
sections of the Iraqi population that are not represented.
Despite media reports that would seem to suggest the contrary,
the greatest lack of representation comes from the Arab
Shi'a population. Many southern tribal leaders have been
left out, as well as religious leaders who have significant
sway in the country.
Governing Council will no doubt need to be expanded and
it is vital that it strives to be more representative than
it already is, and not less. It must not reaffirm minority
rule, on the contrary it must be proportionally representative
of the people of Iraq. The Salahudin percentages, which
the Iraqi political parties are agreed upon, are the clearest
indicator for how this needs to be done.
ideally it would be reassuring to hand over to an elected
Iraqi government, the importance of the constitution outweighs
this aspiration. Since this will mean the transition phase
will be longer by as much as 12 months, a temporary constitution
must be adopted that strictly incorporates the timetable
that is set to be announced on December 15 by the Governing
Council. This will address the concern that exists in handing
over power to a transitional government instead of an elected