13 January 2005
Voter Turnout Likely To Affect Iraq's Political Future
State's Kozak sees healthy signs of coalition building among parties
By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington â€“ Voter turnout in the upcoming Iraqi elections is more important to the political future of the country than it is to the credibility of the electoral process, according to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Kozak.
â€œIf people decide to boycott an election â€¦ that's their choice.Â It's part of your democratic choice.Â You can decide not to go to the polls â€¦ but then you have no one to blame but yourself,â€ he said during a January 12 press briefing.
â€œ[I]f the process is clean, whether people choose to take advantage of it or not doesn't undermine its credibility,â€ he added.
Kozak said, however, that broad participation is important for the political future of the country.Â The local and international players involved in managing the elections and several leaders from Iraqâ€™s neighboring countries have called on all Iraqi citizens to participate in the January 30 vote.
Iraqis have shown enthusiasm for the elections, according to Kozak.Â â€œWhen you look at polling come out of Iraq, 84 percent of Iraqis say they intend to vote, and this is not, you know, with somebody twisting their arms,â€ he said.
He said that many of the candidate slates on the ballot are multiethnic and added that he finds it a positive sign that all of the parties and ethnic groups are encouraging each other to participate.
â€œ[T]o me, it's a very healthy thing that all of them are looking and saying, 'well, you know, maybe I've got 60 percent but I don't want to have the other 40 percent alienated from me so I need to pick up some guys from this community and that community and get them on my slate,'â€ he said.
Kozak noted that this sort of coalition building, both before and after the elections, is common in countries with parliamentary systems that operate on proportional representation.Â This is the model for Iraqâ€™s 275-seat Transitional National Assembly.Â Parties will be given a portion of seats that reflects the percentage of votes they receive in the election.
In such systems, it is often the case that no single party has a clear majority.Â Consequently, parties form coalitions to govern and develop legislation.
â€œ[W]hat's really healthy when you look at Iraq these days is that all of these guys are looking around saying, 'you know, I don't want to get this guy too mad at me because I may need him to get something I care about passed when we're drafting the constitution or when we're appointing the new government,'â€ Kozak said.
Kozak said that he hopes the security situation will not keep Iraqis away from the polls, and he cited various other countries where voters have defied threats from insurgents and gone to cast their ballots.
â€œ[C]ommon people actually have a very strong weapon in their hands.Â We saw it in [El] Salvador.Â We saw it recently in Afghanistan, in some areas there where people were trying to intimidate them from voting, and they said no, we won't be intimidated,â€ he said.
For more information on the upcoming Iraqi elections, see â€œIraq Elections: A Vote for Democracyâ€ at http://usinfo.state.gov/mena/middle_east_north_africa/iraq/Iraq_Elections_A_Vote_for_Democracy.html
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2005&m=January&x=20050113143019ndyblehs0.1515619&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html
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