Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More of the Cole watching

Self-congratulation and heartily endorsement of US initiative. Juan Cole, Monday, December 27, 2004:

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the Bush administration has been exploring with Iraqi figures like Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the election commission the possibility of a set-aside for Sunni Arabs in the parliament to be elected on January 30. The American overtures have met substantial resistance, but not complete rejection, writes Steven Weisman.

Of course, I heartily endorse this initiative, and had proposed it myself in early December.

In "How to Save the Iraqi Elections", we are being reminded of the fact that he has been actually improving his proposal from 20%, in November 19, up to "generous" 25% by December 5--"generous" indeed compared to the only 10% of his rather stingy guest, Andrew Arato:

Upcoming voting is headed toward train wreck unless U.S. sets aside legislative seats for Sunnis.

Assuming the security problems do not prove fatal to the elections, they can now be salvaged politically only in one way. The interim government, which has already declared martial law, must pass a decree ordering a onetime set-aside of a generous 25 percent of seats for predominantly Sunni Muslim parties.

This sort of quota is regrettable, but it is the only solution to the crisis. It should not form a precedent, but rather should be done as an emergency measure just this once. Once the parliament meets to craft a constitution, it is important that it create an upper house that somehow over-represents the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, so as to prevent a tyranny of the Shiite majority.

The American-designed government, with a one-chamber legislature, ensures permanent Shiite dominance, likely by religious parties, which contains the seeds of future disaster for Iraq.

Cole is desperately trying a "regrettable" supplementation, a "once occurrence" as he says, into his ethno-centric constitutional system; that is, he is making a small concession to more local practices. But, how would 20% or 25%--make it 49%--of parliament members and constitution legislator prevent "a tyranny of the Shi’ite majority"? How would parliament decide on some "over-representation" of the Sunnis in some upper house if the majority of parliament members are Shi’ites? And suppose they agree to do so, how would an equal representation in senat alone stop Shi’ite tyranny in parliament and thereby in the whole balance between the two chambers? Well, that remains something of a mystery.


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