After the Election

    6 April 2005, lunch time

The presumption in postwar Bosnia—as well as occupied Iraq—was that elections create democratic culture. Yet elections are the result of democratic culture, not the catalyst for it.

After the Election , by Nir Rosen, examines the result of Iraq’s recent election. Many people touted the elections in Iraq as a success for democracy. Rosen asks the question, “Were they?”, and decides that, “No, they were not.” In his opinion, forcing national elections on the people accomplished nothing, and may have actually made the situation on the ground worse. He argues the elections only served to divide the country further along ethnic lines. With no campaigning to speak of, no debates, no party platforms, and in most cases totally anonymous party leaders, people simply voted for the party that represented their ethnic or religious group. It should come as no surprise that the Shiite coalition got the most votes, the Kurds the second most. The problem here is that majority rules hardly makes for a good democracy. At some point elements of liberalism must enter the picture or you end up with a ochlocracy. You need only look to Sri Lanka to see the problems a simplistic populist democracy produces.

The article is in the April issue of Harper’s, which has been quite good. The magazine is probably contributing to my recent spat of leftist ramblings and links. Harper’s may at some point put the article above online, but if you have a few bucks left over this month, I think this months issue is pretty solid. There is a great essay on Democracy and Populism, and another great article on farming in Cuba.



  1. How about you just lend your copy to me in exchange for the ipod receipt, the next time I see you? ;)

  2. Very true. Can’t force democracy unto others. The people have to inculcate the values of democracy to really participate fully. And for a viable democracy you need the masses to be educated, so that they can enjoy their rights and exercise their civic duties.

    But the problem is just not with Iraq, Bosnia or other struggling democracies such as Indonesia. You see it in mature democracies as well. Take Germany for instance. No freedom of press. Free speech has been curtailed immensely. Look at France, where exercising your religious right by wearing a veil or a turban is banned by the govt. And these countries are more Liberal than say America and Australia for instance.

    One can say that mob rule exists in the US but I beg to differ. I think in America we have the other end of the problem. Its the rule of minorities (I don’t mean racial minorities). The Far Right and the Far Left have basically hijacked every issue while the disenchanted middle / moderates have just given up. I mean the further right you go, you meet the same loonies coming in from the left.

    Iraq on the other hand presents many unique problems. The mistrust between Shiite and Sunni islam is ages old and will not be fixed overnight. My biggest worry has been that Iran and its ayatollahs would basically come into power. And surely that wouldn’t be a good thing since Iraq used to be far more moderate than any other in the Middle East. But imagine what sparks would fly in Iran once they realize that their Shiite brothers in Iraq are on the path to democracy? How will they feel? Will they rise to the streets? I often wonder.

  3. I think you should make an entry category just for Harper’s related shiots.

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