Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Ayad Alawi's lead is a sign in the right direction

While a majority of the American general public was watching as the Tea Partiers and 9/12ers were setting the nation ablaze over healthcare reform, few people realized that in Iraq, the nation we have been in for the past seven years, had a parliamentary election. Despite a few car bombings, this election was decisively less violent and chaotic than the previous election in 2006 where Nouri al-Malaki was elected prime Minister. In this election, al-Malaki appears to have met his match as prime minister when his State of Law Coalition party only won 89 seats in Parliament while Iraqi National Accord party won 91 seats.

At the helm of this party was none other than former Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr. Ayad Allawi, a neurologist who was educated in London at University during his years of exile. Prior to his travels to England, Allawi was a devout follower of the Iraq's Ba'ath party. However, he defected from the party upon the rise of Saddam Hussein as leader of the Ba'ath party. He would go on to form the Iraqi National Accord in 1990. When the US began to prop up a democratic government in 2005, Allawi was appointed as interim Prime Minister until the people of Iraq elected Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be prime minister.

Yet perhaps the fact that is most astonishing about Allawi is his decidedly more secular approach to governing. In a 2004 address to the US Congress, Allawi only mentioned Islam twice and invoked the name of Allah once. For Iraqis to vote en masse for someone as secular as Allawi is astonishing, considering that his secular pragmatism led many to believe he was a puppet of the US Government; only a pawn for us to carry out our will in Iraq.

However, Allawi's party won widespread support in both Shi'ite and Sunni voting blocs. In fact, Allawi's secularism is possibly a reason why he was appealing to some voters; he was able to deliver the notions that Shi'ites would have a pragmatic ally while Sunnis could possibly have some of their pull in government restored again after the decisive rejection of Sunnis in the Iraqi government. In a nation that has become rife with sectarian violence since the United States invaded in 2003, the idea of having someone who will work to give both Shi'ites and Sunnis an equal voice.

All of these positives do not diminish his negatives though. Like Hussein before him, Allawi is not afraid to use brute force when he feels there may be an uprising. Case in point, in November 7, 2004, while serving as interim leader of Iraq, he ordered a military strike of the city of Fallujah, where it was believed terrorists were hiding out. Not to mention the fact that Allawi's long absence from Iraq and the fact he was born into an upperclass family is enough to make some Iraqis question his knowledge of their everyday concerns. Not to mention that he had spent many years as a member of the Ba'athist party.

On the other side of the coin, this small lead does not even ensure Allawi will be Prime Minister. However, for a country to decisively choose to elect a party led by a secular modernist who many are reticent about can be seen as a sign that the Iraqi people examined the parties running for public office and decided on their own valition what kind of leadership. This of course is the hallmark of democracy.

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