The influential Association of Muslim Scholars still seem intent on leading a Sunni boycott of Iraq’s first real election in over half a century. It’s a bit like saying “as punishment for letting me speak, I will now shut-up.” They wish to boycott as a way of removing legitimacy from the process. What they’re forgetting is that while forced exclusion is a credible argument against an election’s legitimacy, self-imposed exclusion is not. Your right to vote doubles as your right not to vote, and opting for the latter doesn’t equal a removal of the former. The ploy is fundamentally a self-fulfilling prophecy that has been embraced by much of the press, willing to sacrifice their craft in exchange for political gamesmanship out of desperate antiwar zeal.
There are a plenty of other more rational arguments for opposing it beyond stooping to a fifth grader’s grasp of logic. The goal is a successful election. Unfortunately the insurgents, Saddam loyalists, and the Association of Muslim Scholars wish for its demise, while Middle Eastern governments, the UN, and many Democrats in our own Congress (such as Representatives Charlie Rangel of New York and John Conyers of Michigan) give strength to their strategy by swallowing the Sunni formula: not voting equals denied voting, ergo no legitimacy.
It seems intellectually backwards to embark upon a mission through standards set by those who are against that mission.
The impetus behind this boycott is that the Sunni leaders want more than one-man, one-vote; they want their demographic to have the political force of the Shi’ites while not possessing the numeric force to attain it. In Washington, D.C., there’s a greater preponderance of African Americans than there are Hispanics, Asians, and Whites. If any of these minorities decided not to participate in the mayoral elections, would their absence at the polls in any way de-legitimize the winner?
Welcome to representative government, my friends. Fortunately, we’ve learned that a functioning democracy is one in which the majority rules but only to the extent that minority and individuals rights are protected. However, in that representative government, the majority will naturally receive the greatest representation through the ballot box. What should be of comfort to them is that, according to the existing Iraqi Constitution, the new 250-person assembly will be unable to apply mob rule when writing the new constitution, because it requires only three of the 18 provinces to reject it – and that includes the Sunni Triangle.
Alan Nathan, a combative centrist, is the nationally syndicated daily talk host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on The Radio America Network.