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Journal of Democracy 15.2 (2004) 180-186



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Documents on Decmocracy


Iraq

On February 23, the United Nations released the report of a fact-finding mission to Iraq, dispatched in response to requests from the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council. Led by Lakhdar Brahimi, special advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the mission was sent out to study the feasibility of early elections and possible alternatives. The report is excerpted below:

There is a deadlock over the issue of direct elections versus the caucus-style process prescribed by the Agreement. At the end of the long discussion held by the mission at both the political and technical levels, a consensus was forming in Iraq that it would be extremely difficult and perhaps even hazardous to try to organize general elections before 30 June 2004. There was equally a consensus that the caucus system as currently conceived is not a viable option. . . .

Second, there is consensus among all Iraqis that elections are an important step in the long road towards establishing democratic governance based on the rule of law. Elections in themselves do not constitute democracy. They are not an end but a step, although an important and essential one, in the path towards a peaceful, stable and united Iraq. . . .

The necessary stages for the preparation of the [electoral] process would include, among others, the definition of all electoral procedures and the preparation of the necessary procedural manuals; the registration of political parties and/or candidates; a regulation defining political financing; a regulation concerning electoral campaigning; the accreditation initiatives; the procurement and assembly of electoral material (for the various electoral operations); the mapping and choice of polling locations and assignments; and the logistic preparation for polling, counting and tallying results. . . .

In countries with conditions and characteristics similar to those of Iraq, it is possible to say that the minimum time required for preparing a credible transitional election would be no less than eight months from the time [End Page 180] the three conditions described above are met, that is to say, once the political agreements have been formalized in a legal framework and once the basis of a functional electoral management body has been established and the necessary resources are made available. If it is anticipated that an election should take place by January 2005, it would be necessary to reach the basic agreements that would form the backbone of an electoral law by May 2004.

An improved security environment is a precondition for the conduct of free and fair elections in Iraq. Lack of security could lead to major disturbances undermining the administration of the election. . . . Just as important is to have an environment that permits respect for the civil and political rights of candidates, parties and voters, ensures free campaigning and a free choice, and guarantees free speech, opinion, information, assembly, movement and association during elections. While transitional contexts are not always the most conducive for credible elections, minimum conditions should be ensured to allow for the process to be a successful one, whose results are accepted by all parties. Security is therefore a major conditioning factor in ensuring the legitimacy of the process. The current circumstances, resulting in widespread fear and anxiety among the population, are a major obstacle to the success of an election. The existence of militias (especially if connected with political movements) could also be the source of coercion and intimidation that would undermine the political credibility of the exercise.

It is important that the electoral campaign and the election itself be monitored by independent observers. . . . Elections that are not properly prepared and that are held without the best possible conditions first being established often lead to "token" democracies and radicalized politics, and undermine compromise among stakeholders and coalition-building. . . .

The United Nations recommends that in order to start working immediately towards a well organized electoral process that would result in polling at the earliest possible date, an autonomous and independent Iraqi Electoral Commission be established without further delay. . . .

The resolution of the timing of the election provides opportunity and space for Iraqis (both those on the Governing Council...

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