By KARIM KHUTAR ALMUSAWI
LOS ANGELES TIMES
With only a little more than two weeks to go before Jan. 30, there are still some people who want to postpone the Iraqi elections. But that would be a terrible mistake.
For one thing, the Iraqi people are longing for democracy after decades of dictatorship and oppression, and they are not inclined to wait much longer. This was confirmed by a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute in December, showing that 67.4 percent of Iraqis support going forward with the elections as scheduled. According to Iraq's independent election committee, 7,471 candidates -- representing 75 political entities, 27 organizations and nine coalitions -- plan to participate in the national assembly elections.
Don't be fooled by propagandists: This election process -- to create a transitional national assembly that will begin to build durable democratic institutions and draft an Iraqi constitution -- is for the benefit of all, not to favor one class or group over the others. No effort has been made by authorities to stop anyone from participating in the voting, so there is no "Sunni crisis" as some people are suggesting.
New Iraq for all
Simply speaking, the new Iraq will be for all Iraqis and not for any one particular group, faction or religion. It will represent all the Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians, and any other minorities or religions.
No one wants injustice or inequality except the terrorists. That was the old policy under the racist regime of Saddam Hussein -- a policy that led to mass graves all over the country -- and the terrorists today would like to re-create it.
You have to ask yourself whose interest is served by the call to postpone the elections, despite the intense efforts of the independent electoral commission, despite the support of the main Iraqi parties and institutions, despite the clear desire of friendly nations and the United Nations to have the elections held on time. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's representative said on Dec. 31: "The issue of the election in Iraq is a decisive matter for all Iraqis. There is a consensus on holding it. Any attempt to postpone it means causing an unimaginable crisis."
And what is to be gained by putting the election off? The deteriorating security conditions won't vanish within the coming weeks or months, even after the elections. In fact, holding elections and putting a popular, legitimate, democratic government in place is the best way to help stabilize and secure the country -- not the other way around. That's how to fight the terrorism of Osama bin Laden's puppet, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Some have suggested calling a "reconciliation convention" before the election is held. But reconciliation has been reached already; the only ones outside the circle are the Baathists. And reconciling with the Baathists is out of the question. It is not only against the interest of the Kurds and Shiites to reconcile with the Baathists, but it is against the interest of most Sunnis as well.
The call by some politicians for a boycott of the elections as long as our nation remains occupied is also misguided. The reality of the matter is that the multinational forces in Iraq are an absolute necessity for the moment.
But yes, of course, we will support efforts by the newly elected government to set a schedule for the withdrawal of these forces once they are no longer needed.
Holding the elections is our only choice, and it should be done on schedule. To put them off would be to give in to a terrible clandestine plot that might well lead to canceling them forever. This, in turn, would lead the country back to where we were under the former regime, when we were controlled by corruption and favoritism and violence.
X Almusawi is the representative in Washington of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party.