Who Would You Vote For?

Election Week in Iraq

Who Would You Vote For?

Election Week in Iraq

Who Would You Vote For?
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 25 2005 1:06 PM

Election Week in Iraq

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Dear Ghaith,

I know you can't vote because you never had a ration card in your years on the run, but if you were going to vote, who would you vote for? Is it possiblefor any Iraqi to know who they are voting for, since the party lists of candidates have not yet been made public? What pleasant, secular, moderate lot can you find? Allawi's list? Would you, as many Iraqis certainly will, go for the strongman tough guy with name recognition? Or will you be tempted by your first moral political love, the Communists? And I know you are secretly fond of the Shiites, the long-suffering majority: Would you cast your lot with the Sistani-SCIRI-Chalabi (!) axis? And how scary are SCIRI? Should their old Iranian connection seem spooky, or does their unraveled acronym—Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq—rather give the game away? Are we to expect a sharia-inspired constitution when the Shiite-majority transitional assembly meets? When I was in Tehran before the war, talking to Abdul Aziz Hakim and his late ayatollah brother, I would ask them: "What lessons have you learned from your 20 years in Iran, witnessing the Iranian experiment of theocratic democracy?" They smiled, as ever, enigmatically.

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The only platform in this election seems to be security. And everyone expects security to remain wretched and violent. Beyond that, what kind of political solution can we see or even hope for when none of the parties have explained what kind of Iraq they want to try and build? What will a government look like, and how will it function? Parliament-assembly or executive power? Appointed or voted for? Is security necessary before these questions can be answered, or do they have to be answered before security can be battened down? Chicken and egg?

I find the number of question marks in the preceding paragraphs frightening. Another unknowable chapter in Iraqi history, as if the page is being turned again but the page on the other side is only blank and unwritten. It is impossible to know, even, whether the elections will be an election. Will a result, skewed against a backdrop of intimidatory violence, Sunni boycott, and God knows what irregularity of ballot-stuffing and miscalculated results, provide a mandate strong enough to turn the page at all?

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is an Iraqi freelance photo-journalist. He is also a columnist for Britain's Guardian newspaper. Wendell Steavenson is British/American writer whose work from Iraq has appeared in Slate, the Financial Times magazine, and Granta. Her first book,Stories I Stole, is a chronicle of Edvard Shevardnadze's Georgia. Abdul-Ahad and Steavenson met in Baghdad at the end of 2003 and plan to marry at the end of this year.