Peace through victory - the American way.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sunni Arabs risk deligitimizing themselves by boycotting the Iraqi election.

The Iraqi election is just a week away and the linked AP article says questions remain as to how many Sunni Arabs will participate. Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds are expected to turn out in large numbers but worries remain that Sunni Arab participation will be low.

The article repeats the conventional wisdom that the legitimacy of the election requires high Sunni Arab turnout. "But if the vast majority of Sunnis shun the polls -- either out of fear or lack of confidence in the process -- it could undercut the new government's legitimacy, widen the fault line between Sunnis and the majority Shiites and possibly doom the U.S. military to years of struggle against a determined foe." The article further states: "A turnout that fails to attract Sunni Arab participation could produce a government unacceptable to Sunnis. This, warns [Interior Minister Falah] al-Naqib, could send Iraq into a downward spiral to civil war."

The security concern of a civil war is legitimate. However, it's questionable that the violence will subside even with widespread voter participation among Sunni Arabs. As recent statements by bin Laden and al-Zarqawi make clear the goals of the Sunni Islamists campaign of violence in Iraq is to prevent democracy from taking root, not to assure a legitimate election.

The conventional wisdom that the Iraqi election's legitimacy depends on high Sunni Arab turnout. The real question of legitimacy in this election is whether those who choose to boycott the election are a legitimate opposition. An election open to all citizens in Iraq is inherently legitimate because it is designed to obtain the consent of all the governed.

In electoral democracies some parties win and some parties lose. The winners gain their legitimacy by being selected by the people. The losers gain their legitimacy by agreeing to abide by the results and working within the system to change the results the next time around. Those who choose to stay out of the election de-legitimize themselves.




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