Iraq-a rock-a da vote good

By Adam MacArthur

I voted in the Federal election this past spring. My polling station was at the fire station at the top of my parents’ street. I drove there, it took about 45 seconds, the lady gave me a pencil, I marked one of the three names on the ballot and handed it back to her. In the parking lot I ran into my friends Ashley and Cliff and we decided to go for a beer later. Good times.

This past Sunday in Iraq, ah, well, not so much.

7,885 candidates, 275 elected, 44 people killed, Star Wars caliber line ups, no cars allowed on the street, no travel among the 18 provinces, an extended curfew, copious media coverage and I doubt many people went for post-election Pilsners; they probably were too busy praying that they got home in one piece. It’s the Super Bowl of Hopeless Elections. The only thing missing would be a halftime show put on by Great White. I must admit that I’m impressed that anyone, never mind some 60 per cent of eligible voters chose to vote.

Unfortunately, I can only be reminded of how ridiculous and incompetent we can be when it’s our turn to head to the polls. For the Iraqi voters’ sake, I hope their “democracy” does not look like ours.

For starters, there are no fewer than four political parties that begin with the word “Assyrian”. That’s insane! Imagine the geriatrics in Miami-Dade county during the 2000 U.S. Federal Presidential election speaking to cameras outside the polling station: “I thought I punched the hole next to the Assyrian Progressive Nationalist Party, but when I took a closer glance, the arrow was sort of pointed more to the Assyrian Universal Alliance party’s candidate. Well, I didn’t want him!”

Turnout of 60 per cent isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement from a country where up to 75 per cent do not have jobs to attend, but it sure puts the previous Calgary Municipal elections to shame. 20 per cent of eligible voters in Calgary showed up amidst heavy RPG attacks, mortar fire and the prospect that the whole process was a sham to begin with.

Oh, no wait, we had a snowfall the day before. My bad. But come on, who would want to travel avenue after avenue in suburban Calgary just to vote? Maybe if the city put a polling station in my kitchen, I’d think about it, but they couldn’t even do that.

Those citizens in Iraq who choose to vote are choosing optimism. Not freedom, or saying no to insurgents, just optimism. They know they’re in a mess for years to come, and that their new government will listen to its constituents for about the first 20 minutes, but they rocked the vote anyway. That’s resolve.

It would be interesting to find out why the citizens of Iraq voted. Around here, you hear terms like “moral values”, “economic plans”, “health care”, “dealing with Iraq”, etc. What drives the Iraqis to vote the way they do? I’d bet they’re voting because it might speed the process of ending the coalition occupation. You can be sure that moving closer to a reduction in troop presence is why the election was not delayed by the U.S. administration.

It could lead a person to wonder if participation is actually necessary for freedom, democracy and of course the happiness that follows. If the elections in Iraq received a turn out of 20 per cent, they surely would have been viewed as a sham and spectacular failure around the world. Calgary has a 20 per cent turnout, and nobody blinks. Nobody worries about sections of the population not being represented and taking violent action to assert their interests. Imagine the entire Northeast of Calgary causing more trouble than they already do. Are we lazy or apathetic? Nobody would say that Iraq has a more balanced political system or democratic process than Canada, but it’s not because of society’s participation. Maybe it’s because not enough people give a damn either way.

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