Scott Carpenter

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Shortly after taking office, President Obama congratulated Iraqis on successful provincial elections. "Millions of Iraqi citizens from every ethnic and religious group went peacefully to the polls across the country to choose new provincial councils," he declared on Jan. 31. But this was not quite the case. In the three provinces that comprise Iraqi Kurdistan, the regional parliament postponed the vote until May 19. Only recently have plans been made to hold the elections.

In Iraq, elections are critical. They improve security by legitimizing power relationships while allowing people to vent frustration. In the Jan. 31 provincial elections, Iraqis chose for the most part to "throw the bums out," selecting candidates who they thought would abandon narrow sectarian objectives and best address their problems at the local level.…  Seguir leyendo »

A journalist hurling shoes at the president of the United States may be one lasting, if twisted, image of freedom from Iraq, but the multiple elections scheduled for the year ahead are sure to offer others -- and to demonstrate definitively whether Iraq's democratic experiment will be consolidated or will implode. If the incoming Obama administration wants better images than flying shoes in December 2009, it had better be paying attention.

According to the International Republican Institute, Iraq may hold as many as 10 elections in 2009, more than were held in the whole Arab world this year combined. These include the January provincial elections; municipal and district council elections; the referendum on the security agreement with the United States; possible referendums on Kirkuk and on whether the people of Basra want to form an autonomous region in the south like the one in Iraqi Kurdistan; and, finally, the parliamentary elections set for the end of the year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Within the next few months, Iraqis will once again wave purple fingers in the air as they cast ballots for provincial governments. As Iraq's parliament debates a law to govern the elections, U.S. diplomats and international experts have an opportunity, if not to correct past mistakes, then to help put local government on the right footing.

This spring, officials in Washington and Baghdad celebrated final approval of benchmark legislation governing provincial powers; Ambassador Ryan Crocker called its passage March 19 "a major step forward." No longer would bureaucrats in Baghdad exert arbitrary control over the provinces, assigning budgets and funding projects irrespective of local desires.…  Seguir leyendo »