Monday, June 21, 2004


Background – Prospects of the Interim Government

The coalition’s first attempt at “constructing” an Iraqi government was the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). This was a total failure! Within weeks of its conception, the IGC was rejected by ordinary people. The present interim government was born out of the IGC.

Having said that, there are many Iraqis who seem to be willing to give the present government a chance…but apparently not all of them are willing to do that; violence has been on the rise recently!

The only possible solution to this stalemate situation in Iraq is to deprive violent people of their base of popular support which allows them to operate freely at present. This can only be achieved if the average Iraqi sees the government (interim or otherwise) as legitimate. But no government “engineered” by the occupying power will be seen as legitimate!

So, unfortunately, I can only see the present cycle of violence continuing. The “invited” multi-national forces after June 30th will try to bring the situation under control through the use of force. This will naturally lead to further popular resentment.

There was a time when the US administration could have won over the “hearts and minds” of the people through the demonstration of good will and good intentions!
But after a year of mistakes, criminal incompetence, ill-intentions and bad behavior, the US army is seen by most Iraqis as an “enemy” and as an occupying force. The political blunders of the IGC and the stink of the prisoner abuse episode… all have left the USA administration with too little credibility for the people to accept any declaration of good intentions with good will.

The US administration has “missed” an opportunity of historic proportions to improve this part of the world and to improve the way many people regard America. Most people who were suspicious of American intentions in Iraq, have now been proven correct!

The sad result is that any new scheme or policy will only be viewed with a great deal of skepticism to say the least.


Is There a Solution?

There is only one possible solution: true, representative democracy!

But, there are a number of problems that prevent “conventional” nation-wide democratic elections from being implemented in Iraq under the present conditions.

1. There are no national, credible political figures or parties. This is no coincidence! It has been the active policy of the past regime for more than three decades to achieve just that!

2. Although there was a national census in 1997, this is rejected by many of the present political forces. Furthermore, it did not include the Kurdish north as that area was not under the control of the central government at that time.

3. There is such a wide spectrum of ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity stressed and distorted by decades of violent oppression that a national consensus seems almost impossible if engineered from the top.

4. There is an extremely wide diversity of "life-styles" ranging from people truly living in the 21st century to people literally living in the dark ages.

5. Another problem is that democracy within Iraq may well result in tyranny of some segments of our community over minorities.

The only possible way to achieve some form of democracy quickly and non-violently is through local representation using the smallest possible wards. The proposed solution to the dilemma of democracy and leadership is to establish a wide-base, local government-oriented democracy as quickly as possible (in a time-scale of weeks) from the bottom up.

There are many wise and decent people in this country who are locally known within their communities. Let the people bring them forward!

We need a system that reflects the will of the people… all the people.


Available Administrative Tools

The previous regime, like so many other totalitarian ones, was highly centralized. One aspect of such a system is that, administratively speaking, it had to be highly organized. This was necessary for it to maintain control.

This organization can be made use of for the rapid implementation of a democratic process.

• Iraq is divided into 18 Governorates (Counties).

• Each Governorate or County has a number of Districts. The District (called “Naheya”) is the smallest administrative unit in Iraq. The structure already exists in the country. These Districts are fully defined (with borders, administrations, municipal units, police, schools, etc).

• Each District is further divided into neighborhoods (called Mahallas) that comprise relatively small “electoral” wards of less than a thousand families. Residents of these Mahallas know their borders.

On the question of identification, there are two tools available:

• An important tool is the National Identity Card; every single Iraqi citizen has one.

• Also, ever since the UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, a “ration card” system was introduced and was efficiently used for over a decade. Every family has one. The data is computer-based and the Ministry of Trade has the data on disc.


Neighborhood Elections

Both objectives of rapid democracy and local government can be achieved simultaneously using these existing small neighborhoods.

• The neighborhood is small and people usually know each other. (A major feature of Iraqi life is that people are not “little isolated islands”, they are usually very much involved with other people surrounding them!)

• These areas are usually ethnically, religiously, economically or socially rather homogeneous.

If electoral districts are based on these zones:

• Elections can be carried out rather rapidly. No electoral lists or registers are needed. In a matter of a few days, each district can elect a single representative. (Suggested procedure has been worked out in detail – see below for outline).

• Elections can be run relatively smoothly due to the “uniformity” of the population with little risk of friction or violence.

• Little electioneering or campaigning is needed. People will vote for candidates they already know.

• There is much less chance of election “rigging” or intimidation.


Proposal Highlights

1. The solution is to have “small cantons” that are more or less “homogeneous” deciding how they want to live within a unified country.
2. The proposed solution is to have such “cantons” at two levels: the District (Naheya) and the County (Muhafatha). The first, being small enough to ensure some homogeneity and the second large enough to ensure some executive and financial muscle.
3. These units can have real power through a de-centralised system of government. All of these units will meet all the various requirements if they are given some fiscal teeth! This can be achieved by the division of the country’s substantial income; say: 50% to central government, 25% to 20 Muhafathat (Baghdad being three) and 25% to about 300 Naheyas.
4. This will also ensure that many, many individual “executives” will take part in rebuilding our country (instead of burdening poor Haliburton with such a mammoth task).
5. At the same time the Muhafathas (or Counties) are not big enough to have the ability to survive as separate entities! This should quell fears regarding the country’s disintegration.


Possible Dangers and Suggested Safeguards

1. Violence, intimidation and chaos.
Little violence is expected in most Mahallas due to the relative uniformity of the population. The Authority (preferably under the UN umbrella) has a part to play in potentially volatile locations.

2. Low caliber of representatives.
Place a minimum age limit for candidacy.
Place a minimum education level for candidates: literacy, high school, college education, for different levels of councils.

3. Infiltration by captains of the former-regime.
Prohibit high-ranking former Baath party officials from being nominated. This has to be for a limited period only, say for the first round.

4. Infiltration by extremists and fundamentalists.
There is always a danger! But democracy may be worth risking this. The process may be even beneficial in providing a platform for people to vent there beliefs as long as democracy itself is not threatened. In most countries, these people are a small minority.

5. Dominance of the National Assembly by the majority Shiites!
Shiite is such a loose term, like Protestant or Catholic…there are secular Shiites, moderate Shiites, etc. In vast rural areas, people (about 35% of the population) are very likely to be represented by local elders and tribal chiefs. These are practical, reconciliatory compromise-makers who, in the normal course of their routine social role, are quite accustomed to finding acceptable solutions to problems.
The only potentially troublesome areas are the deprived densely-populated urban areas and religious centers. Many Shiites feel that they have been oppressed simply for being Shiite. It is a legacy of past governments which has to be accepted and addressed .Only time and democracy will alleviate these grievances. At present, it has to be accepted that many of these people will turn to religious figures for leadership.

6. “Ignorance and backwardness”
of much of the electorate in many districts will naturally lead to considerable distortion to the democratic process! Many illiterates, racists, rich and “undesirable” persons will be elected. This is to be expected and we have to live with it. The important thing is to install the system itself. Democracy has repeatedly proved that it can be self-correcting! The Electorate only get what they themselves choose. When people realize the importance of the voting power they have and its immediate effect on their lives they will naturally use it to their own benefit in the end. Sometime or other we have to go through that pain of the birth of democracy!

With these fears and dangers in mind, it has to be said that one of the main features of the democratic system of government is that it facilitates self-correction through non-violent means.

The majority has to be trusted to make sensible judgments in the long term. This is the essence of democracy!




The following posts are of a more technical nature and may not have much appeal to the general reader!


1. Naheya (District) Councils

Elected representatives from the Mahallas (or neighborhoods) can immediately form the Naheya Council. This council can then speedily appoint a Naheya administrator to perform already defined duties of running the Naheya.

In addition to the above advantages, this scheme has the following useful features:

• It satisfies the widely diverse ethnic, religious requirements of self government, language, heritage, etc.

• More equal and fair regional development opportunities especially for those many regions that were previously neglected.

• It ensures justice in distributing the country’s wealth (particularly that there is no need for local taxes due to Iraq’s oil wealth!)

• People will be governed locally by their own people who understand their needs and priorities better than any central government.

• De-centralizing the government, with all the benefits this brings to people.

• Ensuring the continuity of democracy! Its base is so wide that it cannot be easily stolen again.


2. Muhafatha (County) Councils

Each Naheya council can then select a seventh of its members to represent the Naheya at the next upper level of Governorate or “Muhafatha”.
The elected members from the Naheya Councils will then form the Muhafatha Council. A similar procedure can be followed at the Muhafatha level:
• A governor can be speedily appointed.
• A seventh of the Muhafatha Council members can be elected to represent the Muhafatha (County) at the National Legislative Assembly.

The scheme can also accommodate the special problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. A coalition, league or union of several Muhafathas can be forged to cater for their specific requirements within a unified country.
Only two of the 18 Muhafatha councils may pose some problems: Baghdad, due its shear size (for which there are a number of practical solutions) and Kirkuk, for well-known reasons.
Careful attention needs to be paid to defining the sphere of responsibility of the Muhafatha councils, particularly in preventing their dominance over Naheya councils.


3. National Legislative Assembly

The National Legislative Assembly thus elected will be the supreme legislative authority in the country. It will, by nature, be non-homogeneous with built-in conflict-ridden factions.
• To avoid dangerous friction, fiery speeches and counter-productive conflicts, it is suggested that this Assembly carries out its main functions through various committees to perform rigidly predefined tasks. These are outlined in some detail in the full document of this proposal.
• A major task for the Assembly is electing a president for Iraq from at least four candidates nominated by:
 Members of the Assembly itself.
 Present and past members of all professional institutions in Iraq requiring a university degree for membership.
 Present and retired members of the teaching staff of all universities and other academic institutions.

This temporary measure is proposed to solve the problem of the absence of known credible public figures not associated with the previous regime.
With the election of a president, the executive branch of the government can be readily established.

• The Assembly can also undertake the election of the president and members of the Tamyeez Court (The Supreme Court) that will be the judicial authority.
• The Assembly can oversee plans for the election of a National Assembly within six months. These elections could follow more conventional procedures with each candidate representing approximately fifty thousand electors.

The two houses, the National Assembly and the Legislative Assembly (which will from then on become “the lower house” and specialize in Local Government), can work together on constructing a Constitution to be put to a national vote, thus ending this interim period.


The First Step

Election Procedure of Naheya Councils

1. The beginning of the Mahalla election process has to be announced at least one day in advance.
2. Each candidate is nominated by two persons (above the age of 60). These representatives meet between 8am and noon of the “nomination day” at the Mukhtar’s residence. This group then agrees on two local residents to supervise the election process.
3. The two supervisors then select five others to form a 7-strong Supervisory Committee.
4. The Supervisory Committee agrees on an appropriate location for the poll station.
5. The Supervisory Committee meets at the selected location in the afternoon and examines the list of candidates in terms of any conditions or requirements, particularly the relationship (in the form of work or residence) of each candidate to the Mahalla.
6. The committee publishes a list of the candidates in a number of copies to be displayed in the Mahalla, mentioning the location of the poll station.
7. The following day is allocated for campaigning. In towns and cities, the committee supervises meetings during which the candidates are introduced.
8. Elections take place during the third day between 8am and noon under the supervision of the committee, the Authority and/or any other observers (e.g. representatives of the U.N.).
9. Only the universally held identity card is used for identification of electors and to ensure that only people above the age of 18 take part. A corner of the card is cut off with a pair of scissors to prevent electors from voting more than once. No electoral lists are needed.
10. The small size of the Mahalla allows the votes to be counted on the same day. This process has to be performed openly in the presence of a representative for each candidate. Results are announced on the same day.
11. The winner is the candidate who gets the highest number of votes (even if less than 50% of the votes cast).
12. The Supervisory Committee documents the results of this election in a letter addressed to the Naheya Council stating the names of the candidates and the elected representative. This letter is considered official if signed by a majority of the members of the committee. It is handed to the elected representative.

Following this procedure, electing members of the Naheya Council takes only three days! Some democratic “purity” has been sacrificed for the sake of speed and simplicity.


Naheya (District) Council Responsibilities

1. Schools: primary, intermediate and secondary.
2. Health and local clinics.
3. Drinking water supply.
4. Local electricity supply networks.
5. Local telephone lines.
6. Local roads.
7. Social welfare, especially orphans, widows and the disabled.
8. Irrigation water management and rationing; irrigation and drainage channel maintenance.
9. Agriculture; lease of public lands; licensing animal husbandry projects.
10. Public parks, cinemas, restaurants and other recreation facilities.
11. Houses of worship.
12. Supporting and supervising local cooperatives.
13. Veterinary clinics.
14. Local planning and building licensing in coordination with Muhafatha councils.
15. Running and maintaining local court building(s).
16. Local police and security.
17. Maintaining the offices of the Naheya representative’s to the National Assembly.
18. Facilities for public meetings.


Naheya Council Financing

With time, local councils may be able to develop the machinery to raise funds through local taxation. However, at present, Iraq is fortunate in having considerable oil revenue. A portion of this can be allocated to local government councils.
Yearly, 20% of all government spending can be allocated to Naheya councils. Iraq is expected to have around 300 such councils with an average population of 80 000. These funds can be divided among those councils according to population. But with the absence of proper statistics, such funds can be divided equally among them. There is no great injustice in doing that! It may compensate for decades of neglect. With a present budget of $b 6, an average Naheya council would get around $m4 (roughly ID m 7000 at current rates!). This would go a long way to alleviate many grievances and to provide for much needed basic services in many districts. In coming years, revenue is expected to exceed $b 15, leading to something like $m10 per Naheya on average. These are considerable funds for most districts and, being utilized simultaneously, would result in developing the whole of Iraq at great speed.
Iraq at present has vast areas of public land and property. The National Assembly could also decide to transfer some of that property to local government to be a source of extra revenue through sale or lease, etc.
It is imperative that strict financial supervision and auditing is installed in the spending system to prevent mishandling, corruption and ill-practices.


Naheya Councils - Notes and Limitations

1. Naheya councils should not be given authority to make local laws (apart from some aspects of environment and wild-life protection) to ensure uniformity throughout Iraq.

2. No authority, except the National Assembly, is given the power to disband any Naheya Council and order re-elections.

3. The constitution should guarantee the rights and authority of these councils so that they are not eroded by central governments in future.

4. A Naheya council should be capable of replacing its chairperson through a motion by ¼ of its members and ascent of 2/3.

5. Delegates from the Naheya council to the Muhafatha council are chosen for a period of one year only.

6. It is vital that council meetings are documented and open to the public but in a way that does not interfere with the conduct of its business.

7. Councils should not be given the power to charge fees for compulsory education (up to the age of 12 initially) which should remain free.

8. Naheya elections should never be monitored by the executive authority, but only by the judicial one.

9. Council meetings can be held using the language preferred by a majority of its members.

10. Topics and projects discussed by the council can be suggested by 3000 electors, three members, Muhafatha councils, Local Government Council, National Assembly or central government.

11. Procedures in Naheya Councils should be regulated by law to ensure uniformity of councils throughout Iraq.

12. Conditions and requirements for nomination for election of Naheya council membership should be kept to a minimum. The people themselves are the main source of legitimacy and not the executive authority. People have a right to elect their representatives with the minimum of interference from central authorities.

13. The councils are forums scattered all over Iraq to discover and train leaderships, and should be viewed as such.

14. Much of the administrative structures (education, health, irrigation, etc.) needed by the Naheya councils to operate already exist in most Naheyas and are useful to utilize as they are at present.

15. The affiliation of civil servants working for Naheya Councils to Naheyas or to central government needs careful consideration. However, Naheya Council should have an important say in evaluating their performance.

16. Naheya Councils should have considerable freedom in deciding on financial rewards and salaries for its employees to enable distant, less-developed districts to attract good-caliber staff.

17. It is useful to enable Naheya Councils to call upon the expertise of Muhafatha or national government officials.


Muhafatha Council - Responsibilities

1. Hospitals; building, financing, and supervision.
2. Universities and technical and scientific institutes; land allocation, building, financing and participating in their governing board without interference in their professional independence.
3. Establishment of scientific, social, technical and industrial research institutes, particularly those with a local nature (for example, woods, desertification, Kurdish history, etc.).
4. Industrial sites and industrial development projects; land allocation, service provision, licensing and support.
5. Major transport networks (roads, railways, waterways, etc.) at the Muhafatha level and coordination with national networks and local, naheya networks.
6. Electricity networks at the Muhafatha level; again, coordination between the national grid and the Naheya networks.
7. Muhafatha police, traffic police and security.
8. Telephone exchanges and networks.
9. Licensing of mass media; newspapers broadcasting stations, etc.
10. Coordination of irrigation and agricultural activities at the Muhafatha level.
11. Prisons and rehabilitation.
12. Suggestion of projects to Naheya Councils.
13. General coordination and arbitration between the various Naheyas in the Muhafatha.
14. Construction and licensing of agricultural-produce wholesale sites, car-sale sites and large recreation development projects.
15. Financing and service provision to Muhafatha-level court houses.


Muhafatha Council - Financing

As with the Naheya councils, 10% of all government spending can be allocated yearly to Muhafathas. At present, the funds can be divided equally between Muhafathas (with Baghdad, because of its size, given three shares). For the present budget, this would mean an $m 30 per Muhafatha ($m 90 for Baghdad). Next year, the average figure is expected to be $m 80 on average. A more equitable method would be to allocate funds according to population (1997 census figures may be challenged by many people!). Whatever the case, such funds would be beyond the dreams of most Muhafathas (apart from Baghdad) compared to the allocations they used to get over the past decades.
Again, it is crucial that strict financial supervision and auditing is installed in the spending system to prevent mishandling, corruption and ill-practices.


Muhafatha Councils - Notes and Limitations

A Muhafatha council comprises the delegates (1/7) of the Naheya Councils. As with Naheya Councils, the law should define Muhafatha Council proceedings to ensure uniformity of procedure throughout Iraq.

1. The Muhafatha Council appoints the Muhafith (governor) and can replace him.
2. The council approves the Muhafith’s nominations for key administrators and civil servants.
3. The authority of the Muhafatha Council over the Naheya Council should be limited by law to the absolute minimum necessary for coordination to prevent its interference with local Naheya affairs or its dominance over them.
4. It is also necessary to curtail the Muhafatha Councils authority to issue laws and regulations, to maintain the integrity of the country as a whole and attain a reasonable uniformity of laws throughout Iraq. Likewise, the authority of the central government over the Muhafatha council should be watched closely to prevent dominance. Obviously, this is an important question of debate for the various factions of the country and has to be left to the various political forces to settle through a democratic process. The central governments freedom to act in national emergencies has to be also maintained.
5. All Muhafatha council members have to be full time members. Their regular contact with their Naheyas has to be maintained.
6. The council can, and should, form specialist committees to conduct its business.
7. Again, it is beneficial to retain and use the existing organizations and administrative structures to help run the Muhafatha.
8. It may be important to request a minimum of education level for delegates from the Naheyas as well as for delegates from the Muhafatha Council to the National Local Government Council.
9. Baghdad represents a special problem due to its shear size. It may probably require three Councils to run its local affairs (for example, Karkh, Rissafa and Perimeter).


APPENDIX - Nominations for the Presidency

The problem of nominating suitable figures for the presidency during the interim period has two major aspects:
On one hand, the position requires a person capable of leading and managing under difficult, and potentially explosive conditions: there is a decades’ long tradition of governing with weapons and terror; there is poverty and hunger; there is a sweeping desire for vengeance; there are a number of forces posed to grasp power; there are groups that are incompatible with each other or with the democratic process; there is the angered and humiliated army; there is a vacuum in efficient leadership of the civil service; there is an exhausted economy and decaying infra-structure; there are external powers seeking to have a role in shaping Iraq; finally, there are big hopes held by a lot of people that will lead to disappointments as the results of this phase will not be magically fast and visible.
On the other hand, there has been, over the past few decades, an active government policy of repressing and oppressing competent people of independent opinions not associated with the previous regime. Many have fled the country; others have escaped to quiet corners within! This has led to an absence of well-known national public figures.
Attempting to find a chief for the Executive Authority capable of dealing with these conditions without the authority of tyranny and commanding the respect of the people, army and Administration and to be capable, at the same time, of steering the country for two years without causing a new disaster…and giving up his office at the end of his term, would not be an easy task!
That is why it is necessary to seek the opinions of all potentially qualified people. Hence the idea of utilizing the organizations that represent the educated elite of Iraq: the universities and the professional institutions. These institutions encompass all geographic, ethnic and religious varieties of Iraq.
Although this represents some distortion of democratic purity, there is some consolation in the facts that:
• This is only a temporary measure and covers a period of two years.
• The elected president is elected only for the interim period and gives up his post at the end of this period.
• The president will work under the supervision of the Legislative Authority which has the power to remove him from office.
• The mechanism is only used to obtain nominations; the actual selection will be made by people’s representatives.


Nominations for the Presidency by Professional Institutions

1. Using existing mechanisms, every institution, requiring a minimum qualification of a university degree, selects five representatives to represent its members at a national conference to nominate a presidential candidate. (Proportional representation methods can be used!)
2. During this election process, presidential candidate lists can be put forward to form a nucleus for lobbying and campaigning.
3. At the end of this process, every institution will have 5 members to represent it. These representatives meet and choose one of them to attend a preparatory meeting.
4. These people meet to arrange for the national meeting: time, venue, procedures, required committees, etc.
5. The general meeting is held and attended by all representatives of all institutions. Various lists of potential candidates are discussed with the aim of producing a short-list.
6. Delegates are given a chance to go back to their institutions to discuss the short list with members.
7. Committees can be formed to approach the potential candidates in the short list and arrange for them to meet the delegates.
8. The meeting then attempts through successive voting to reach, by a process of elimination, a consensus or agreement on a single candidate.
9. The final nomination is submitted to the National Assembly.


Nominations for the Presidency by University Staff

Although our universities have been subjected to enormous stresses during the past decades, they still have an appreciable number of decent, uncorrupted professionals who have maintained good personal and ethical standards.
A number of democracies have, in their early days, given special voting rights to some segments of society, such as gentlemen or land-owners… but, to my knowledge, giving special election privileges to university teachers has not been tried. Under the present special circumstances of Iraq, this may well be worth trying to seek nominations of the post of Interim Presidency.
1. Every college in every university in Iraq invites present and past members of staff to a meeting to select a single representative for its members. (The University of Technology of Baghdad can be considered equivalent to two colleges; the Establishment of Technical Institutes equivalent to five.) Names of potential candidates for the presidency can also be put forward at this meeting.
2. Representatives from colleges of a single university meet to nominate one representative to attend a preparatory meeting. All private colleges nominate one representative.
3. These people meet to arrange for the national meeting: time, venue, procedures, required committees, etc. A comprehensive list of nominees can be drawn.
4. Staffs of every college meet again to discuss the extended nomination list so that representatives will have an idea about the preferences of their colleagues.
5. The general meeting for college representatives can then be held following the same procedure as for the professional institutions to reach a consensus regarding presidential nominations. Short-listing, meeting the short-listed candidates and then reaching an agreement on one candidate by elimination through voting.


Nominations for the Presidency - Alternative Route

If Naheya (District) Councils are established at the time when nominations for the post of president are sought, an alternative, more democratic strategy is possible: A person desiring to be elected for the post of president is considered when he/she can secure the nomination of, say, 40 Naheya Councils from 10 different Muhafathas.

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