Are Iraqi Elections Acceptable if Only 75% of the People Can Vote?

Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thinks so:

Will Iraqis accept the results of an election if most of the residents of Sunni Triangle are excluded from voting because the region cannot be pacified by January? Wouldn’t this cement the widespread belief among Iraqis that the new government is just an American puppet? Is this another example of the Administration slavishly staying the course for political purposes, no matter how negative the foreseeable outcome may be?

Well, an American election wouldn’t be invalidated if some huge natural disaster hit in November, shutting down voting in a highly populated state (i.e. earthquake in California or massive hurricanes in Florida, etc.) and a large portion of Iraq is going to believe any post-Saddam government is an American puppet.

Screw it. A pertially-effective election is better than none, and assuming the country doesn’t completely collapse, they can hold another election in a few years in which (hopefully) more people can participate.

We’ve been discussing this problem in “Ayatollah al-Sistani threatens to boycott January elections in Iraq” –

What if an election were held without California, New York, or New Jersey? Or without Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, and Kentucky?

That’s how I see this Iraq election mess. The problem isn’t just that 20% of the country may be disenfranchised, but that the disenfranchised area is politically tilted. The areas with the most insurgency are presumably the areas with the least friendly views toward the American occupation, so if they aren’t able to vote, the election results will be artificially skewed toward pro-occupation candidates.

Er, that should be “without California, New York, and New Jersey”. CA, NY, and NJ are blue states that make up around 1/5 of the US population, just as TX, NC, SC, VA, GA, IN, and KY are red states with about the same total population.

You’d have to show that the disenfranchising was arbitrary and intentional, which certainly isn’t the case after a natural disaster and I don’t believe is that case where shooting is ongoing. And the possible effect on electoral votes (i.e. red states vs blue states) such a disaster might cause in the upcoming American election is certainly irrelevant.

I disagree. Regardless of the intent, if the effect is to disregard a huge block of voters whose political views as a whole are reasonably predictable, then the election is going to be artifically skewed away from those views, and the results will be somewhere between “suspect” and “invalid”.

Agreed. We must remember not to look at this issue the way an American (or Iraqi) court of law would – that’s irrelevant. The question is rather enough of the Iraqi people will consider this election “suspect” or “invalid” to make it impossible for the elected government to govern effectively in all parts of the country. And I’m afraid the answer will be “yes.”

Well, unfortunately, the stance of the insurgants is that no election will be recognized. If anyone is causing the disenfranchising, it’s them, not the Americans.

Of course, the whole thing is irrelevant, since the results will be violently contested no matter what.


In 1864 an election took place in the U.S. in which a large chunk of the country did not vote (the Confederacy).

This seems to me to be pretty analogous to what’s going on in Iraq. If 3/4 of the country wants to build a stable, free democray, and 1/4 of the country wants to tear it apart, well, then hold the election anyway, and let the 3/4 press on.

Excuse me, I should have said they’re not interested in any election that doesn’t lead to one of their own as replacement dictator.

Still, cite? Seems to me they’re primarily interested in getting the occupying forces out of their country. If you have evidence that most people in the disenfranchised area, or even most of the violent insurgents, would only be happy with a dictatorship, then let’s see it.

I didn’t say that, only that the violence of the insurgents making a vote in a particular region impossible is not the fault of the Americans, nor should it make an election void. I have no doubt whatsoever that the majority of Iraqi civilians just want to get back to a normal life.

And in any case, segments of the Iraqi population won’t accept the results of this election, but screw 'em, go ahead anyway, and hope the nation can settle down so that the next election won’t be a fiasco.

You did say “they’re not interested in any election that doesn’t lead to one of their own as replacement dictator.” Who are “they”, if not the insurgents or the disenfranchised Iraqis?

Who will accept the results of an election that’s fundamentally biased, other than the people administering it? Do you think the international community will think Iraq’s newly elected government is legitimate if an awfully convenient fifth of the population doesn’t get to vote?

Well, duh, “they” are the insurgents. The Iraqi civilians who will be unable to vote are unfortunate bystanders, such as exist in every armed conflict.

Screw the international community. The international community is full of idiots. This first election, regardless of the result, will be at best a transitional phase into either a burgeoning Iraqi democracy or a return to dictatorship. No matter what, some Iraqis will always blame the Americans or use them as a convenient excuse for their own cruelties. I personally hope the civilians who won’t be able to vote know who it is that is stopping them.

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Sam, the problem is not that 1/4 of the country wants to tear it apart, it’s that violent jerks in part of the country don’t want ANYONE to vote and their actions remove 25% (or whatever) of the voters from play unwillingly.

All that being said, in a country (the USA) where only 50% of the eligible voters even bother to show up once every four frickin’ years, I would personally regard 75% turnout as a massive improvement, fit for celebration.