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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The new plan for founding Iraqi democracy is up on the coalition provisional authority web site.

My view is that they have got to be kidding. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee what is a committee designed by a committee. The idea seems to be to find a way for Iraqi's to compromise by making a compromise between every existing proposal. There were two key questions.

1) Should Iraqi democracy begin with
a) elections (a common feature of democracy)
or should
b) democratic delegates be democratically appointed by bodies without democratic credentials the Govering Council (GC) and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

The problem with a is the risk of tyranny of the majority of Shi'ite Arabs. Not coincidentally, the enthusiasts for an election to start with are (all?) Shi'ite Arabs. The problem with b is that to call such a process democratic is a blatent lie.

The decision is to choose a and b both of them first a fake election for a transitional assembly which will appoint a transitional prime minister then a real election some time in the future to write the constitution.

2) The other question is whether to A) write a constitution first then have an election (which seems the natural order) or B) to have an election then write a constitution (which seems odd).

The problem with A is that it would take a long time given that 6 months were not long enough to decide how to elect the delegates to the constitutional convention. The problem with B is that it sounds crazy to those of us who have had a constitution for 216 years and you would have to have an election soon.

The solution is to have a pseudo election to get a prime minister then a real election for the constitutional assembly to write the constitution.
This means that there will be a democratically elected constitutional convention which is only supposed to write the constitution and a not really democratically elected prime minister who is supposed to run the country.

The aim seems to be to compromise with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (who believes in one man one vote elections) while putting off the one man one vote elections as long as possible.

It seems to me that this is a recipe for disaster. What happens if the majority of the constitutional convention disagrees with the prime minister ? The democratically elected body with the authority to write a constitution clearly should rank higher than someone appointed by appointees of appointees of an appointee of George Bush. Yet it appears that the constitutional assembly will not have the power to vote no confidence in the transitional prime minister. To avoid this crisis the CPA will have to make sure that the majority of the constitutional assembly will not make trouble for the transitional prime minister. This does not seem to me to be a good approach to democracy, since it requires making sure that the first true election has the right result as judged by the CPA.

I think the risk of tyranny of the majority could be avoided in another way.
1) plan for electing the constitutional assembly written by Paul Bremer and some lawyers.
2) elected assembly (that's for Sistani the only guy who seems to really believe in elections)
3) assembly better make a committee to actually write the document.
The draft constitution must be approved by 2/3ds vote and a referendum.

The 2/3rds to avoid tyranny of the majority.

Or another way. Paul Bremer, some lawyers write a constitution. Presented for referendum. Then elections. Key point is informal negotiation with Sistani on the actual constitution.

Third plan (getting desparate here) the Jordanian option. Reunite the divided Hashemite kingdom and declare King Abdullah of Jordan King of Iraq.

OK the last proposal is even worse than the current plan, but it took some thinking to come up with something worse.

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