Saturday, October 5, 2002

Democracy in Action

Let's be honest. The Florida election system for the last two years has been a joke (or a nightmare, depending on how you spin it). First, hanging chads in 2000. Then the disaster of the 2002 mid-term primaries. It's enough to send Florida packing off to Cuba.

But at least it's not Iraq. While the issues of war, sanctions, and weapons inspections are debated from one corner of the nation to another, we can at least all take solace and agree: Their election system is a joke. Florida, by comparison, is a democratic and electoral model.

It was announced Wednesday, October 16, that Saddam Hussein won another seven-year term in office by an overwhelming – and we're not making this up – 100% of Iraq's 11,445,638 eligible voters.

Let's be clear about this. There were no butterfly ballots or optical recognition tabulators. Not a chad in sight. The ballots were simply a "Yes" or "No" referendum on the Iraqi president's return to office. Many Iraqi voters went so far as to mark their ballots in blood. Nazi elections never garnered this kind of margin.

These sort of results just aren't possible in democratic society. Not even if one party rounded up the other and shot them all – then did the same to inter-party dissenters – could results ever come close in the US. I wonder how many Republican Guard are standing outside the polling stations, guns trained on the "enthusiastic" electorate. I wonder if the election commission even bothered to count the returns.

At a news conference in Baghdad, Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Iraq's supreme decision-making body, defended the results. "This is a unique manifestation of democracy which is superior to all other forms of democracies even in these countries which are besieging Iraq and trying to suffocate it."

Oooooh. A subtle little jab there.

When a reporter remarked on the ridiculousness of the election results, Ibrahim responded, "Someone who does not know the Iraqi people, he will not believe this percentage, but it is real. Whether it looks that way to someone or not. We don't have opposition in Iraq."

Of course, the referendum is supposed to send the United States and Great Britain a message: The Iraqi people support their president. Instead, the message we're getting is: Iraq's democratic process is a joke...Saddam autocracy is absolute.

I really think Saddam and Ibrahim are missing the point of democratic elections. If they are going to fake it, at least fake it well. Have 35% vote "No", for good measure. Make it look like there is a dialogue or – God forbid – a choice. fb

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