Monday, June 21, 2004


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.

The idea of short election time periods avoids so many potential problems. The longer the time period the more the potential for shenanigans. It could possibly avoid violence that will build in the run-up as the many parties who wish to see Iraq's democratic experience fail immediately. I fear the days and weeks leading up to the announced January election, as I believe the violence will reach a crescendo from those with a vested interest in this elections failure. These include both terrorists and totalitarian Arab governments of surrounding countries who are fearful of seeing anything like democracy take root next door and show that Arab's can live under democracy. Reduces the possibility of rigging by external powers (read: Iran) who would prefer seeing a fundamentalist Shiite Islamic government or terrorists using intimidation to influence election outcomes. There is no advantage to long election cycles. Every 4 years in the US the cycle becomes more vitriolic, more corrupted with the ability of outside forces to hijack the outcome (read: soft money and corporations). The ground up approach insures those elected are known locally. It also lends the outcome a solid legitimacy that will be missing from the proposed top down approach.
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