Editorial: Democracy 101

Iraq’s election results are in and they show that the Shia Muslims, who won a 48 percent majority, and the Kurds, with 26 percent of the votes, are the winners. Now that the elections are almost done with, there are a few things that the new government should consider.

This is an opportunity the Iraqis should seize. Aside from Israel, there has never been a successful democratic state in the Middle East. This is a chance for the Iraqis to show the Arab world that democracy is a feasible thing.

However, there are stumbling blocks the new Shiite/Kurdish government should avoid. Although 59 percent of the Iraqi population voted, Sunni turnout, particularly from the Sunni Triangle, was very low. While it would be easy to exclude them from the democratic process by saying they gave up their rights when they didn’t vote, it would be a major mistake for the Iraqi government to actually do so.

There were two legitimate explanations as to why the Sunnis did not vote. The first was the danger involved. Sunni radicals continuously threatened to kill those who participated in the elections. Given that the terrorist violence was greatest in the Sunni Triangle, most Iraqi Sunnis had a choice – to either not vote or be slaughtered by the “holy hands of (God’s) warriors.” Because this was an American-backed election, the former option seemed the most sensible thing to do.

Secondly, anti-American sentiment is prevalent in various Sunni populations in the Arab world, and it follows that some of the Iraqi Sunnis could believe the word of terrorists – still their Muslim brethren – that the American-backed elections were nothing short of a farce and that the Iraqis should not vote.

These two reasons make for a strong case as to why the Sunni voting bloc came up short. This does not mean, however, that the new Iraqi government should use this as an excuse to ignore their fellow citizens. If shut out from the formation of the transitional government, the Sunni electorate will have even more reasons to not believe in the new government, and support for the terrorists will skyrocket – the insurgents will have a new reason to topple an American-backed government and the new call to arms will be “they don’t represent us!” Voter fear, or even apathy, should never be ignored. And in this case, Iraq will be sitting on a time bomb if they choose to let apathy become insurgency.

Furthermore, in spite of the resistance, the United States needs to stay in Iraq and ensure the new government gets to its feet and stays that way. Or else, face the consequences – which could be disastrously like the end of the democratic Egypt of the 1930s and 1940s by a military coup in 1952.

Now that Iraq is a free nation, the United States should not just stop at protecting the democratic process. It should push for Iraq to develop a strategic alliance with the West and engage in free trade with the new government. In doing so, the White House will prove to the unbelievers that its interests in Iraq are purely of the soaring spirit of freedom kind – and absolutely nothing else.