Iraq: the fragile dawn of a new era? The local elections that took place in February in Iraq were an unreserved success, not only because they rejected the call to political extremism but because they proceeded in an orderly nonviolent way that heralds a new epoch of maturity for this nascent state.

Author:Darwish, Adel
Position:CURRENT AFFAIRS
 
FREE EXCERPT

I COULD BARELY BELIEVE my ears listening to the BBC's flagship news and current affairs Today programme on Radio 4. The BBC seemed to be admitting, at last, that democracy had begun to take root in Iraq. The interview surprised me because the majority of the British media has, for the past six years, projected a pessimistic opinion of most Iraqi projects, perhaps believing they were doomed to fail as 'babies' of the villainous Bush/Blair duo.

The day after the February election, the Today presenters interviewed a delighted Iraqi lady doctor who said the situation was generally secure, the capital of Baghdad was stable and that she and her friends had celebrated the dawn of a new Iraqi era with a lovely party the previous night where men and women of different ethnic backgrounds enjoyed eating, drinking and dancing together.

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Before the interview, the BBC played part of a previous interview with the same lady doctor conducted in 2004. In a sad yet angry voice, she said she didn't give a damn about democracy; what she wanted was security and to be able to walk to the shops, without fear of kidnapping or being bullied into wearing a veil.

In contrast, her voice last month was happy and full of confidence as she declared that she had voted for candidates after attending their election meetings (she stressed these were "meetings" not "political rallies"), and was satisfied they would make good on their pledges.

In the run-up to the provincial polls, there was little talk of foreign policy, relations with the West, or promises of forcing the "occupying" troops out. Instead, everyday issues like garbage collections, regulating school buses and securing clean running water dominated February's election campaign.

It may have dealt with provincial issues but Iraq's election was applauded internationally as a real success. This was certainly the view of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he arrived in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki as early results were being declared, registering an unambiguous success for the State of Law coalition lead by the Iraqi leader.

The election, in which the UN played a key organisational role, passed without violence or any significant incident, confirming that the Iraqi nation is maturing fast, with the electorate turning its back on ideological slogans, voting instead for those candidates they felt would best suit their own interests and spend their taxes...

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