time in Iraq
Dr Roy L Austin
On January 30 (tomorrow), one year and ten months after Iraqis
were liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, they will
go to the polls to take the first decisive step toward building
the free, democratic society that the vast majority of Iraqis
In polling stations across Iraq and around the world, Iraqi
citizens will be able to cast their ballots and make their
individual contributions to Iraqs democratisation.
Finally, after a 30-year nightmare of repression, torture
and murder, the people of Iraq will begin taking charge of
their own lives and future.
From start to finish, these elections are being run by Iraqis,
for Iraqis. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has
certified approximately 111 parties, coalitions and individuals
who will compete for 275 seats on the Transitional National
Assembly. This Assembly will in turn choose a president and
two vice presidents, who will then select a prime minister.
The Transitional National Assembly will also draft a constitution,
which will be put to a public referendum in October. By December,
Iraqis will return to the polls to elect a new national government
under the auspices of their newly enacted constitution.
In the January 30 election, Iraqis will also vote for representatives
to Iraqs 18 provincial councils, and to the Kurdistan
National Assembly, thereby spreading and instilling democracy
even deeper into the fabric of Iraqi society.
The stakes are high and clearly understood by everyone. While
surveys show that the vast majority of Iraqis want to vote
in these elections, the enemies of a free, stable and prosperous
Iraq believe they have no stake in a future of freedom. The
evidence of their fury is all too evident in the form of car
bombs, assassinations, kidnappings and intimidation.
As Election Day draws near, unfortunately, this violence is
likely to intensify. Every individual Iraqi of voting age,
regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation, must make a
choice and a decision whether they will vote to move their
country forward towards the path of freedom, or yield to the
threats and oppression of those who seek to undermine Iraqs
Now, as Iraq approaches the elections, people everywhere can
take heart in the courage shown each day by ordinary Iraqis.
The true Iraqi patriots are the people who continue to get
up and go to work for a better future.
They are the people who stand in line to become police officers
and national guardsmen, despite the fact that their colleagues
have been abducted and murdered.
They are the people who drive to their offices, past the same
checkpoints at which suicide bombers struck and killed innocent
victims the day before.
They are the Iraqis who care for orphaned children, rebuild
sewers and electrical stations, lay new roads, teach in schools,
and work for a brighter future.
As they seek to realise their hopes and aspirations for a
better Iraq through elections, they deserve the worlds
respect and full support.
Building the democracy desired by a large majority of Iraqis
will require persistence and patience. It will require firmness
in the face of those who advocate postponement of the elections.
Postponement at this stage will only encourage the forces
of destruction and despair. Successful elections, on the other
hand, will land a serious blow on these forces.
If the Iraqi people have the courage to move forward and cast
their ballots for a democratic Iraq, then we, too, must show
the same resolve, supporting their effort as they take on
this next challenge in their transition to democracy.