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A Solution to the Elections Impasse

By Sama Hadad & Yasser Alaskary
Wednesday, February 15, 2004

The lingering stalemate between the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and Ayatullah Sistani on the issue of elections may have a simple solution that seems to have eluded many owing to the complex nature of the current agreement. The November 15th plan, agreed on by the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council, would establish 18 selected provincial caucuses, which would in turn choose a transitional legislative assembly. The assembly would then appoint an executive, which subsequently approves a cabinet. Ayatullah Sistani has rejected this plan, insisting on elections to determine the transitional government.

The result of this disagreement has been fierce debates about the feasibility and desirability of holding elections to choose members of the national assembly. A simple solution to the dispute is to separate the currently intertwined processes of selecting the legislature and that of the executive. This would introduce the option of holding elections to choose the executive, whether it be a president or presidential council, and at the same time maintaining the caucus plan to appoint an assembly. Presidential elections do not carry many of the problems and obstacles posed by elections for members of an assembly.

A presidential election would be much simpler than holding general elections for the several hundred seats of parliament. It does not rely on a mature political party system, which Iraq lacks and is often an argument used against elections for the transitional assembly. Extremists or Ba'athists would not stand a chance of slipping through, a real possibility that exists under an assembly chosen by general elections. Moreover, elections for a president do not require as robust a voter registration as elections to choose the many seats of the assembly, as the former allows for a greater margin of error. Furthermore, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, addressed concerns of security preventing free and fair elections stating "We will be able to provide for security that is necessary across the country."

The complexity of the current plan, a fact that has undoubtedly contributed to the current opposition, makes any outcome impossible to predict. The fate of both the legislature and executive rests on this uncertainty. Iraqis calling for elections fear that too much relies on a process which, in their eyes, is vulnerable to being rigged. Sistani's edicts have never specified that elections must be held to determine the national assembly, but rather the transitional government. A presidential election would allay fears and resolve Sistani's misgivings.

The exact mechanism for electing the executive can be customized according to whether Iraq decides on a presidency council or a single president. For example, the current draft of the transitional constitution envisages a tripartite presidency council. Under presidential elections this can be formed by the three winning candidates, who between them would likely hold the support of the majority of Iraq.

Separating the two processes for selecting the legislative and an executive can break the current deadlock. The balance between an elected executive, which will give the transitional government the legitimacy Iraqis desire, and a selected legislative, which will aid for a smooth handover of sovereignty, can produce a stable transition for a blossoming democracy.

 

© 2007 Iraqi Prospect Organisation
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