Monday, February 14, 2005

Results Outed, Allawi Ousted

Iraq election result mandatory critique.

Mainstream news sources are already bundling results into religious and ethnic groupings rather then by actual party list. Hence Paul McGeough's reportage in the SMH this morning that Shiite religious parties have 47% of the vote, Kurdish parties 25.4% and Allawi, widely considered the US candidate, a meager 13.6%. Boycotted not-votes are attributed to Sunni sentiment, although no figure is given other then observations that less then 2% voted in Anbar and only 29% voted in Salahadin.

McGeough usually does Osmar White impartiality so well, but I do wonder if he has slipped up today.

My gripe; Western media-fueled assumption that all Shiite parties band together, all Kurdish parties band together and that the not-vote is characterised by Sunni passive-resistance (well yes the not-vote is characterised by passive-resistance, but not all not-votes are Sunni and not all Sunni are not-voters).

While some parties may be predisposed to certain affinities, media sponsored religious branding does ignore the possibility that civilians in Iraq are a bit more politically sophisticated then religious stereotyping might suggest. Has it not occurred to any in mainstream media that people in Iraq may actually have voted, and not-voted, for reasons other then religion?

Clearly Allawi has been ousted. There are reports he is scraping around for co-alition partners but the message from voters and not-voters alike seems pretty clear. Voters and not-voters, irrespective of religion, would appear to be un-enchanted by Allawi's doublespeak-partisan-ness.

And the not-voter. In spite of every international media effort to cast the not-voter in Sunni robes, results imply the not-vote comprises a more complex mix. The not-voter equitably shunned all candidates regardless of religious preference. This says a lot for the not-voters conviction and credibility. Afterall, had the not-voter held only Sunni interests surely they might have simply backed a Sunni candidate? But no. The not-voter did not. The not-voter had a much broader role to play, providing the brakes that every run-away cart needs. Without the unshaken skeptism of the not-voter these elections may well have passed much less legitimately then they did. A significant number of doubters prompted others to step up procedures to ensure accountability. And that is what democracy is all about, different approaches providing just enough tension to hold the structure taught and keep the canvas sky from falling in.

One question remains. Will Western media sources continue to play the role of candy-distributor or will they begin to exercise a little more of the critical eye that international journalism prides itself on? The time for celebrating is over and the time for applying the good old journalistic brakes is due. Sweeping hand in general direction of bloggers. All things in moderation. Now more then ever is the time to watch for inconsistency, position rigging and formative corruption You would do it for any other election, why not do it for Iraq. Do you want your coverage to look rorted, or what?

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