With the Bush administration, the Iraqi government and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the religious leader of the country's Shiites, insisting that national elections must proceed as scheduled in late January, and a coalition of Sunni Arabs saying they should not, it seems more likely that the voting will be delayed, discredited or both. But a train wreck can be avoided: by delaying national elections while holding votes for provincial governments wherever possible, an acceptable compromise may yet be found.Malley and Hiltermann understand the dilemma and are trying to fashion a compromise, but I fail to see what this really accomplishes. The problem is that Sunni insurgents are determined to prevent national elections and this compromise hands them a victory.
The apparently successful re-occupation of Falluja aside, war is raging and anger is boiling in most of the country's predominantly Sunni Arab regions. Organizing elections there in two months' time is increasingly fanciful. Some have suggested holding them everywhere else. But because Iraq will not elect legislators by region like the United States Congress, but through a single nationwide ballot in which seats are to be allocated proportionately, setting aside a predetermined number of seats for regions where voting cannot occur will not work.
In addition, because the legislature is to double as an assembly for drafting a permanent constitution, Sunni Arabs would be excluded not only from immediate political life but also from having a voice in the longer-term makeup of the nation. This would decisively alienate the very segment of the population at the heart of the insurrection....
As I've said before, if not now, when will the new government begin? When will the Sunnis allow an election? Never is my guess.