Roadblocks to Democracy in Iraq

On May 22, 2007, the New York Times had reported a truck loaded with bombs that exploded close to market in the southwestern Baghdad.

The explosion killed 25 people and wounded more than a hundred people. It also demolished nearby house and shops. A witness said that the truck collided into a car that was parked before exploding (Cloud, 2007).

This piece of news is already not new to us. And it is definitely not new to the people of Iraq. Since the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein, the country has not been peaceful again even after the war has ended.For 35 years, Iraq had been governed by a dictatorship lead by the Baath party from 1968 to 2003. The later 24 years, Saddam Hussein had the power over the party, and thus the government. Under his rule, the people do not have any role or any power over the government. Nonetheless, Hussein was finally elected in 1995 as president of the country in a public referendum.

However, though the process of his election appeared democratic, none of the people believed it to be so. But since they know that disloyalty to the party was severely punished from the start, so none of them could voice out there doubts.Up to the year 2003, Iraq was defined as “a sovereign people’s democratic republic” under their 1969 constitution.

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But the people surely know otherwise. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, rumors about the Iraqi government hiding weapons of mass destruction were raised. This is where the United States came in. The United States president George Bush insisted that Iraq prove otherwise. Search units had been deployed to Iraq but they found nothing. Together with Britain and other nations, the United States put up armed forces in the Persian Gulf because they were thinking that Iraq might attack using their weapons anytime.

Some countries, like France and Germany expressed their opposition on the action of the United States. But before the United Nations Security Council could agree on a decision about military action on Iraq, the armed forces led by the United States attacked Iraq. In the middle of April the force had moved across the southern part of Iraq. The Kurdish people sided with the United States and helped conquer the major cities in the north. The capital of Iraq, Baghdad then was captured. The armed forces that Hussein held were still large but he did not rule the country anymore.Saddam Hussein then also became criminal that was hunted. Finally, in the month of December, he was captured at a farm next to Tikrit.

Saddam Hussein was put into trial by his people for his crimes against humanity and was hanged. This attack done by the United States and its allies was to overthrow Hussein and at the same time, getting rid of the suspected weapons of mass destruction that the government had been allegedly hiding. This invasion paved the way for instituting an interim Iraqi government that will take charge in the transition period after the rule of the Baath party.The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was formed and then supervised by U. S. administrator L.

Paul Bremer III to handle this transition. The CPA body selected 25 Iraqis to stand as a temporary governing council. The members were representatives of the various religious and ethnic groups around the country and also representatives of the political parties. In March 2004, the council commended an interim Iraqi constitution, called the transitional administrative law. There were different views that came up regarding the interim constitution.

Some people acknowledged it as the most democratic law ever passed because it contained a bill of rights entitling them to personal freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But 12 Shia members of the council had expressed their disagreement on the constitution because of a number of stipulations. These stipulations were also questioned by the most powerful religious leaders in the country. One of them, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that it was not legal unless endorsed by a national assembly elected by the people.However, the constitution was still passed. Because of the oppositions that had met the constitution, unrest had resulted after it had been approved by the council. In an answer to this problem, on June 1, 2004, the council disbanded itself for the formation of a new interim government. The new government had a prime minister and a president.

They were aided by a deputy prime minister, two vice presidents, and a cabinet. Twenty- seven days after, the power was officially transferred to the new parliament government.In choosing a transitional National Assembly, a general election was held at the end of the month of January. The United Iraqi Alliance (UAI), the coalition of the Shia-Muslims, won 51 percent of the votes, second in ranking was the Kurdistan Alliance, an alliance between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, having 26 percent of the votes and the political group of the interim prime minister named Allawi had 14 percent. Only the 58 percent of the registered Iraqi voters partook in the election, a large percentage of those who did not participate were the Sunnis.Even though the Sunni Arabs composes 20 percent of the population of the country, only 17 seats in the 275-member parliament was awarded to them. The assembly elected Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president of the new government. Also, Talabani named Shia leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari was the one elected as prime minister.

This election was done in April. The new government made and completed the permanent constitution in the summer of 2005. However, the Sunni Arab members of the governing body were largely outnumbered.

As a result, the constitution that had been drawn up declared Islam as the religion of the state.The national government now declared that they will not pass any law that may contradict the traditional laws of Islam. In addition, the people will be ruled by the standard laws of their religious community regarding personal matters. Nonetheless, the constitution stipulated civil rights to the people. However, it had a most dismaying provision in the constitution which was rendering little power to the central government. The provinces are permitted to group themselves together into provincial coalitions. Also, these coalitions can have the sole right to all petroleum and natural gas finds in their lands.

The Sunni Arabs was infuriated because they know that the Kurds and the Shiites will now be monopolizing the future oil wealth of the country. Because of this, the representatives of the three large Sunni Arab provinces denied the constitution, but it still passed in the other passed of the country. Thus, internal conflict in the body enrages more. (Iraq, 2007) According to different opinions, the United States actually wanted to create a wave of democracy in the Middle East. In Iraq, they did it by releasing the Iraqis from the hands of Saddam Hussein.The transition in the government in Iraq was to become democratic as opposed to the rule that had governed Iraq for many years which was dictatorship.

However, as presented in the previous paragraphs, for two years after the overthrowing of Hussein, the country is still not peaceful. Of course, immediate peace and order is not expected after the war that has crippled the country. There will always be problems before a country settles down after the war. But in the case of Iraq, difficulty in recovering from the war is not the only problem but personal interests of the people are also getting in the way.For many years the Iraqi people did not have any hold on the government. Now, that they are allowed to do so, it is still a difficult process for them. Middle East historians are saying that Iraq still has a very long way to go before democracy sinks in.

They have also identified the factors that may affect the implementation of democracy in Iraq, now called roadblocks. One of the eminent roadblocks in establishing a democracy in Iraq is the political divisions in Iraq. These divisions has opposed the formation of a central government that will govern the whole country.As can be seen from one of the stipulations in the constitution drawn up last 2005, little power was bestowed to the central government and the provinces were allowed to form coalitions. Each autonomous region does not want to adhere to a central government that will have power and control over them.

From an article posted by LS Butts (2005), he has identified three main reasons why it is difficult to centralize the government in Iraq. First reason is the ominous environment in the country that forces the Iraqi people to look for safety in the extremes of nature.For thousand years, Iraq had been politically, ethnically, and religiously divided. Several people have formed independent and self-reliant social groups that promise and provide security to the people. The people are usually grouped according to faith in ancient religious deities or association in one of the many tribes that has inhabited Iraq for a thousand years already. These political divisions had been the structure of the country for many years already.

It had already even shaped the culture the country has now.Also, these divisions had long obtained autonomy on the areas that they cover. Because of this, they are likely to oppose provisions that will make them lose autonomy on the people and the areas they hold. The three major groupings in the country are the Sunni-Muslims, the Shiite, and the Kurds.

They are not just religious or ethnic groups but the individualities that people who are members of the group are forced to support. When election comes, a commoner Iraqi does not have other options in choosing for the candidate that he would like to vote.They are required to vote for the representative of their religion-cultural party or division. It has long been the tradition that the people do not know how to disband themselves from it. (Lee, 2006).

In 2006, an article of Lee about the lecture of Robert Behrman on the current conditions of Iraq said that the political atmosphere in the country is greatly disturbing the societal setting of Iraq. People do not feel liable in their votes during elections since they were obligated to vote for their party. If they did not vote for the representative of their party their lives will be at stake.Also, extensive corruption of the leaders has lead to distrust of the people on these elected leaders. This condition is also contributing to the failure of establishing a democracy in Iraq because uniting the people is difficult. Instilling democratic views to the people is also difficult because for one, they do not believe that they can have democracy in choosing their leaders.

Another one of the reasons by which the country is highly divided is the scarcity of stone in the region. This scarcity has heavily impeded the construction of roads in the country.Consequently, for a greater part of the written down history of Iraq, any form of government control were unable to reach several sections of the country because of this impediment. These sections had been isolated from the rest of the country. Only in the recent fifty years that roads had been built reaching these areas. A centralized government would be unfamiliar to them and will be met with resistance since they had lived on their own for many years now. The geographic location of the country in the eastern border of the Arab world is also considered as a cause for the difficulty in centralizing the government.

The country is sharing borders with Turkey and Iran. Because of this, different ethnic groups from these neighboring countries had migrated to take advantage of the huge potential in agriculture in the region in its river valley. The different ethnic groups harboring on the borders of Iraq has not supported a centralized government because it would limit their hold on the lands that they are holding right now. And though they are migrants, they do not feel obliged to follow the central government because some of them do not consider themselves as citizens of Iraq yet.As a result to the differences of the different ethnic groups and political parties, each one wants to impose stipulations that will protect their own interests. Because of this reasoning, Iraq faces a violent rebellion from these groups.

High crime rate is being recorded because of the violent rebellions that took place (Butts, 2005). Rebellions are not only raised by these immigrants, some of the Iraqis themselves are having uprisings on their own as well. The armed forces that are siding with the government are the Iraqi Army, the police on the local and national levels, and a political militia.The military of the United States and Coalition partners are also helping them out to solve these rebellions. In spite of this, there is an imperfect union of the Iraqi Army since they have different geographic responsibilities. Because of this, combating the rebel groups had become difficult for the army.

The attacks of the different rebels coincide that the army cannot determine which of the rebel groups were the most successful in destabilizing the government. There were many uprisings during the time of Saddam Hussein but they were easily crushed.But now, lack of unity among the Iraqi citizens and the parliament makes it hard to solve the rebellions and other problems of the society. David Butterworth (2005) sighted another roadblock to democracy that Iraq is facing.

This roadblock is centered on complex religious issues. Iraq is an Islamic country, and the religion Islam has a great influence in the government and the society. The interim constitution has declared Islam as the religion of the state but they also assured rights to religion for non-Muslims. However, many stipulations in the constitution are based in the Quran.Thus, negatively influencing stipulations on women’s rights. In addition to that, some stipulations that would govern the everyday lives of the people are also directly based from the Quran.

These stipulations are strongly opposed by the non-Muslims. These non-Muslim Iraqis are worrying that other religious issues will be raised later and added to the constitution. The Kurds, a long subjugated ethnic group, have expressed their opposition on the constitution and had declared that they will only corroborate with a constitution that will separate the state from religion.That is how democracy is supposed to be. But the question on whether it is possible to separate Islam from the government is still not easy to answer because the religion Islam has a very political nature. This religion is focused on this world that it also involves lots of political requirements that is unfit to the principles of democracy.

The demands of the Kurds may have a very futile chance (Butts, 2005) Another roadblock that Iraq is facing is having the people approve the constitution that the parliament has drafted.Most of the Iraqi people feel that they were set aside in the making of the new constitution of their country. The citizens of Iraq feel that it should not be considered as their own constitution because the people were not part in the making of the constitution.

Because of this, opposition to the constitution is not only expressed as a group but also individually. A debate had been suggested in order to address this complaint and that the government should receive and study the inputs that the citizens will give. Through this, the making of the constitution will indeed become democratic (Butterworth, 2005).

However, the unrest that is happening in the country makes it impossible for debates and regular meetings wherein the people could discuss and share their inputs to the making of their own constitution. As can be seen, the roadblocks that are hampering the establishment of democracy in Iraq are more on problems within the system of the country. Such roadblocks are very hard to crush because most of these roadblocks are intrinsic in the people and in the structure of the society. These are conditions that had long been practiced and observed.Such conditions are hard to eradicate, especially if the people are heavily attached to them.

Efforts had been done to solve and compromise these roadblocks. The international community is even helping Iraq, but these efforts are not yielding good results. The leaders of autonomous regions are not willing to surrender the power that they hold on their autonomous regions.

This unwillingness is not only rooted on their want for power but also for the wealth that comes with it. Iraq is a treasure chest of oil. The money that comes with the oil is what these leaders are not prepared to give up to a central government.

There are views implying that the Iraqi society is not functioning because it is not functioning the way it used to be so. As for the problem with the complicated religious issues, it is only a matter of striking a compromise between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The religion Islam may be highly political in nature but the leaders should recognize that it is one of the impediments to stabilizing their government, and thus their country. They should somehow find a way to set aside there differences in order for their country to recover from the war.The current conditions in Iraq are now really depressing according to different sources. Many people are already having the belief that the country is hopeless, more so the establishing of democracy in there.

Positive reformations had been done with the help of the international community but even the Iraqis are still apprehensive about their conditions. Some concerned Iraqis are also helping the international community in reforming their country. Communal projects are being done by concerned citizens but are not made known to the public in order not to attract attention from the rebels who are wreaking havoc in the country.The economic condition of the country is also bad because of the high crime rates and even unemployment rate. The reconstructions of war damages that are being attended to are also slowly progressing, stealing the hopes that the people have (Lee, 2006). On the early part of the current year, the United Nations had recorded two million Iraqi citizens that had run away from the country. Also, a number of 727,000 people had been relocated within the country.

Conflicts between different sects had caused these relocations.Sunnis were displaced from Shia vicinities in order to prevent further conflict between them. It is surprising to see that these groups are now fighting since they had lived peacefully together before (Iraq, 2007). According to this report, the conditions in Iraq are now very poor to cause such number of people to leave their homes and even leave the country. The purpose of the invasion of Iraq led by the United States was to free Iraq from the hands of their ruthless ruler, Saddam Hussein and take out the fear that they carry because of their government ruling them.But it seems that the conditions of the country after the overthrowing of their dreaded leader just came out to be worse.

The overthrowing of their leader just seemed to have caused chaos on the country instead of peace. It seems that the result that the invasion wanted to produce hard to achieve, if not impossible. It may be because they are not used to holding in their hands the governance of their own country. One may ask, why is the international community so concerned with what is happening in Iraq?Many international organizations are getting concerned because conditions in Iraq are still not getting better. First and foremost is for the reason that the country is a member of the global community. Another reason is that the country plays an important role in a global sense. Oil is a very important resource the every country needs for its day to day operations.

And Iraq is one of the leading producers of this resource. If unrest still continues in the country, their contribution to the oil produce may largely be affected. If this happens, it may have a negative effect on the whole world.Reference


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