Direct Elections versus Caucuses

Direct Elections versus Caucuses

Joined: November 21st, 2001, 1:08 pm

January 17th, 2004, 2:26 pm #1

I have been following this story with interest and some confusion.

In brief, it would appear that the U.S.-designed and therefore approved approach to democracy insists on a caucus approach to election of an Iraqi government.

The latest story on this is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/17/inter ... PL.html?th

I fail to understand the issues involved. There are many ways to accomplish democratic elections. What makes the caucus form so important here? And why is the administration so wedded to it?

Can anyone here help shed some light on this for me?
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Drasca
Drasca

January 17th, 2004, 8:21 pm #2

The article discusses three Iraq factions first: Shiites, who are not talking with the US The ayatollah has refused to speak directly to American officials, leading to a search for ways to improve communication with him and his followers. and Some American officials have also expressed concern that elections this year could concentrate power with the Shiites, while the United States wants Iraq to adopt a constitution that guarantees the rights of the Kurdish and Sunni minorities.

Seems to me there's a power struggle. That seems the American motive. The US actions seem afraid of a shiite majority concentrated somewhere. Since there seems less inclination to 'talk', be influenced by the US government, the US pushes for... what? Caucus where "population power" is less relevant?

That's my limited take on events. Anyone else with better insight?
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Joined: November 30th, 2001, 2:27 am

January 18th, 2004, 5:05 am #3

But I'm just wondering which side of the story it really is:
The Shiites are trying to press majority rules to the point of exploitation. Or, the USA simply doesn't like the Shiite politics.

I, for one, have seen the best and worst of majority rules before. And it ain't always pretty.
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Joined: October 4th, 2001, 6:39 am

January 20th, 2004, 9:16 am #4

I have been following this story with interest and some confusion.

In brief, it would appear that the U.S.-designed and therefore approved approach to democracy insists on a caucus approach to election of an Iraqi government.

The latest story on this is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/17/inter ... PL.html?th

I fail to understand the issues involved. There are many ways to accomplish democratic elections. What makes the caucus form so important here? And why is the administration so wedded to it?

Can anyone here help shed some light on this for me?
A genuine democratic process will lead to an Islamic government in Iraq, which the US doesn't want, and a non-genuine one (read:caucuses) will lead to a government that's widely regarded as an illegitimate puppet of the US.
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Ozymandous
Ozymandous

January 20th, 2004, 12:10 pm #5

Where in the world is there a true Democratic, one person one vote, majority rules, form of government? Well?

Every form of "modern" government that I know of has a representative form of government, so why should Iraq be any different? Some sort of 'caucus' system is the only real way to make sure the minority isn't completley run over by the majority, and at least has a say in what goes on, if not as the leader then in the Congress or Hosue of Parliment, for example.

So what is the reason, exactly, that such a representative form of government would be seen as a "puppet" of the US, other than someone's residual anti-American sentiment?
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Joined: November 21st, 2001, 1:08 pm

January 20th, 2004, 1:00 pm #6

Some sort of 'caucus' system is the only real way to make sure the minority isn't completley run over by the majority, and at least has a say in what goes on, if not as the leader then in the Congress or Hosue of Parliment, for example.

The 'first past the post' system of electing representatives that is used by both Canada and the U.S.A. might well yield that result. The system in place in New Zealand would ensure that most minorities would still get a proportional voice, should the 'parties' split on those grounds.


The New Zealand Parliament has only one chamber known as the House of Representatives, the members of which are elected every three years. New Zealand has the only Westminster-style government in the world elected using the mixed member proportional (MMP) system. Under MMP, adopted by general referendum in 1993, voters have two votes, one for a party (and their list of candidates) and the other for a candidate for a geographical electorate. There are a total of 120 seats in Parliament, 69 of which are electorate seats and the remaining 51 are party list seats.

As I said in my original post, there are so many different ways to design a democracy that it puzzles me to see one apparently being imposed that has so few admirers world-wide.

As a side note, it can and has infuriated me, here in Canada, to see the odd election where the Party that got 47% of the votes has 90% of the representatives in Parliament. That is the outcome that seems to be feared in Iraq. But, as noted, there are many structures that could be designed that would still achieve democracy there.


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Occhi
Occhi

January 20th, 2004, 3:42 pm #7

But how is the electoral foundation thathas evolved in NZ any basis for a cookie cutter applied to Iraq? I see Iraq as far more fractious to start with. However, it may well be a good method, if tried there.

The U.S. did not star with one man, one vote. It took a while to get there, and at that we were left alone to do it, more or less.

"Laying an election on folks can get you mob rule, and successes like Haiti."

No sure thing.

As I said months ago, Islamic republic in Iraq is the most likely outcome.

Who wants to bet against me?
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Joined: November 21st, 2001, 1:08 pm

January 20th, 2004, 6:33 pm #8

But how is the electoral foundation that has evolved in NZ any basis for a cookie cutter applied to Iraq? I see Iraq as far more fractious to start with. However, it may well be a good method, if tried there.

First, that system did not 'evolve' there. It was a decision made about 10 years ago as a replacement for a system similar to what exists in Canada right now. It was 'designed' for New Zealand. My point was that surely there can be a system 'designed' for Iraq that would achieve good results.

Second, they do have a minority that does insist on rights (the Maori), and they have found a way to accomodate them within this system.

The U.S. did not start with one man, one vote. It took a while to get there, and at that we were left alone to do it, more or less.

Shullbit...

We have all built upon the doings of others. The U.S. tried one way, but it was based on a history of influence from Britain. Left alone? Insisted on it, IIRC.

"Laying an election on folks can get you mob rule, and successes like Haiti."

Fair enough. But in Haiti you had a population that was largely agrarian and completely uneducated, with a foreign designed system laid on them. Not so for Iraq on the populace. And it seems to me that they absolutely need to be part of the process of design.

No sure thing.

Of course. It is certainly a crap shoot when you 'let' people make up their own minds about what to do, eh? Paternalism can only go so far though.

As I said months ago, Islamic republic in Iraq is the most likely outcome.

Who wants to bet against me?


No bets. For all I know, that is exactly what the folks there really do want. And who are we to insist that they cannot?



And by the way, when are you going to pay up on the last bet you made with me? You owe me two charms: one plus one energy and one plus one mana.
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Occhi
Occhi

January 20th, 2004, 7:59 pm #9

1. When you gonna be in the game when I have the charms handy? I had +1 mana charm for two weeks ,and we never met up. So, I sold it . . . Sure to find another one. Been out of other games as noted for a while.

What are you referring to, otherwise?

2. Sorry, Shadow, bit evolve is exactly what it did in NZ, from one parliamentary system to another. It is still a parliamentary system, just not FPP, and possibly one best suited to NZ. Just as the US Congressional style was an evolutionary change to the English Parliamentary system. The "revolution" was the absence of a king. Took the Frogs and their so called revolution until 1871 too get that half right, but in their defense, they were NOT left alone: their neighbors activbely tried to stamp out the change.

3. So yes, no shullbit, the US, the nation, once formed (1787 and the U.S. Constitution) was left alone: No one came in to tell us how to do it at the point of a bayonet, and for a critical 90 years, we were indeed left alone to sort out our experiment's strengths and weaknesses. Europe considered the CSA's case, but generally stayed out of our civil war. Iraq will not get that luxury.

4. As to the Islamic repbulic, the past 6 months of reading has reconfirmed my initial assessment that the grounds are less fertile for Enlightenment based Western Democracy than an Islamic Republic has only been strengthened.

5. As to paternalism, it's how the UN has always done business, thanks for your interest in international affairs.

See again Haiti, Namibia, Palestine, Cyprus, Sinai, Mozambique, Congo, ad nauseum All of the U.N., particularly its richer memebers, are guilty of that all over the "developing" world. What would be unique is an absence of paternalism in Iraq.

To explore your Haiti point, take the experience of record and consider how qualified is the Average Achmed on the streets of Bagdad. Is he really any more qualified than the average Haitian, who has had a constitutional government since 1919 but whose land is ruled by despots (or more recently, crackpots like Aristide) to adapt a non despotic model of government? Maybe help during the forming storming norming performing transition phase is owed to them: no one in the area wants to "leave them alone." See the infiltrators in Iraq for forces trying to tear a representative Iraq apart.

Better educated, sure, but so what? Over educated fools populate plenty of this globe. "Better educated" people the world over brought us the stupidity of Communism.
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WarBlade
WarBlade

January 20th, 2004, 8:47 pm #10

But how is the electoral foundation that has evolved in NZ any basis for a cookie cutter applied to Iraq? I see Iraq as far more fractious to start with. However, it may well be a good method, if tried there.

First, that system did not 'evolve' there. It was a decision made about 10 years ago as a replacement for a system similar to what exists in Canada right now. It was 'designed' for New Zealand. My point was that surely there can be a system 'designed' for Iraq that would achieve good results.

Second, they do have a minority that does insist on rights (the Maori), and they have found a way to accomodate them within this system.

The U.S. did not start with one man, one vote. It took a while to get there, and at that we were left alone to do it, more or less.

Shullbit...

We have all built upon the doings of others. The U.S. tried one way, but it was based on a history of influence from Britain. Left alone? Insisted on it, IIRC.

"Laying an election on folks can get you mob rule, and successes like Haiti."

Fair enough. But in Haiti you had a population that was largely agrarian and completely uneducated, with a foreign designed system laid on them. Not so for Iraq on the populace. And it seems to me that they absolutely need to be part of the process of design.

No sure thing.

Of course. It is certainly a crap shoot when you 'let' people make up their own minds about what to do, eh? Paternalism can only go so far though.

As I said months ago, Islamic republic in Iraq is the most likely outcome.

Who wants to bet against me?


No bets. For all I know, that is exactly what the folks there really do want. And who are we to insist that they cannot?



And by the way, when are you going to pay up on the last bet you made with me? You owe me two charms: one plus one energy and one plus one mana.
"Second, they do have a minority that does insist on rights (the Maori), and they have found a way to accomodate them within this system."

The above statement is misleading. Most importantly, Maori have always had a political voice under the Maori electorate system, where the entire country was carved up into about seven Maori electorates as well as being carved up into all the regular electorate divisions. Maoris had the option of being registered under that and voting for Maori MPs rather than the parties that the rest of us were voting for. So MMP is not something whereby we have "found a way to accommodate" Maori, however you are also correct in implying that the MMP system is suitable for giving a voice to minorities.

Personally I hated the old FPP system. It didn't matter what I voted, because I was always in one of three evenly split minorities, so my vote only ever counted for a statistic. That's the trouble with FPP: Lucky you if you happen to live in 'swing vote territory' but if you live somewhere that's strongly aligned to one side that you hate, then you may as well stay home. Under MMP now, I'll vote and my votes ALWAYS count. One vote for a local politician and one vote in the Nationwide stakes. The electorate candidates always get in and the result of the Nationwide stakes makes up the remaining 50% to determine the proportion to which each party is represented overall.

The old two-horse race of FPP is vertually gone (in NZ)now and the current ruling lineup is a coalition of parties.
- Labour: Left of Centre party with nearly 50% voter support.
- Progressive Coalition: Two-seat staunch ally of Labour. Same political leanings, but with strong idealism.
- United Future: Right wing, very sensible and hold about 8 seats IIRC.

. . . plus the support of the Green Party on most issues with somewhere near 8 seats.

One upside of this system is parties are forced to talk and agree. One DOWNSIDE is also that parties are forced to talk and agree. That's where I'd say there could be a questionmark over whether or not it would be good for Iraq, seeing as how Iraq is so accustomed to such a 'majority rules' system, that I wonder if they can even wrap their heads around a 'let's talk' system of proportional representation. If they can then I believe it would be an excellent system, far superior to FPP, but I also can't even guess at how well it might work in an environment where so many Iraqis currently look to be pushing for majority rules.
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