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Monday, February 14, 2024
The NYT on the Iraqi Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:51 am

Via the NYT comes what strikes me as an odd piece: Power Check: Verdict Is Split in Iraqi Election. For example:

The razor-thin margin apparently captured by the Shiite alliance here in election results announced Sunday seems almost certain to enshrine a weak government that will be unable to push through sweeping changes, like granting Islam a central role in the new Iraqi state.

First off: the sentence makes no sense–what does it mean that the Shiite alliance has a “razor-thin margin”? If one doesn’t know the numbers from the elections (and they aren’t given in the initial part of the piece), that statement is meaningless, and indeed makes one think they barely pulled out a win over another list by only a few votes. In fact, the Shiites came within about 3 points of an absolute majority-which may not quite be “razor-thin” and they bested the next list by over 20 points.

Further: why must this enshrine a “weak? government? Most multi-party parliamentary systems lack a party which can form a government by itself. This would be called “normal? not “weak.? And in this context, as the paragraph back-handedly suggests, it is probably a good thing that no one group is strong enough to form the government by itself. In this context the lack of a true majority party increases the need for inter-party cooperation. Surely it is a good thing that they cannot implement sweeping changes–what with compromise being the essence of democracy, and all that.

Update: Not to mention that it will take a 2/3rds vote to elect the president anyway–this system is geared towards required power sharing. In that context the opening paragraph makes even less sense.

Then we have:

The verdict handed down by Iraqi voters in the Jan. 30 election appeared to be a divided one, with the Shiite political alliance, backed by the clerical leadership in Najaf, opposed in nearly equal measure by an array of mostly secular minority parties.

Well, surely, given the division within Iraq (e.g., Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, the secular v. religious issues and other smaller factions) that we would expect a “divided” verdict? I mean who writes this stuff? Last time I checked, we always have “divided? results in Congressional elections and I hear tell that the Europeans have all kinds of political divisions.

And the blindingly obvious nature of the next paragraph almost makes one pause in awe:

According to Iraqi leaders here, the fractured mandate almost certainly heralds a long round of negotiating, in which the Shiite alliance will have to strike deals with parties run by the Kurds and others, most of which are secular and broadly opposed to an enhanced role for Islam or an overbearing Shiite government.

I hate to break it to Mr. Filkins (author of the piece), but one needn’t consult Iraqi leaders to figure that one out. I came to the same conclusions sitting around my living room and the Times didn’t have to pay for me to go to Iraq. Further, if one knows anything about this type of institutional situation (an assembly, multiple parties, a government to be formed, a constitution to be written) then one would pretty much assume negotiations from the get-go.

Indeed, the only way not to have a need for negotiations is for an authoritarian faction to take over. That, for those of you keeping score at home, would be bad. Plus negotiations mean dialogue amongst groups, interchange of ideas and compromise.

So: negotiations=good, no negotiations=bad.

The piece calms down from there and heads into more fact-based reporting. However, based on those facts, and the basics of theory on democracy, legislative behavior and coalition formation, it would seem that the lead should have simply started off with a discussion of the fact that the Iraqis find themselves in a position to have to negotiate to form the government, and to write the new constitution, and if, in fact, they are willing to do so (which it appears to be the case) then this bodes well for democratic development in Iraq.

Indeed, the title of the piece “Verdict is Split on Iraq Elections” suggests that some problem exists with the process or the outcome. Instead it comes across as a somewhat negative way to start the obvious: there wasn’t a unanimous winner where one party took all the seats. Surely that is what any democrat (note: small “d?) would want, and surely the headline (and the opening paragraphs) should have a less negative tone to them.

Most odd.

Update: Jeff Jarvis dubs the NYT “Eeyores” after the reading the story and notes:

When the occupation began, I seem to remember doomsayers saying that the people were sure to elect an Iranian-style hardline religoius government. Now they elected a government that will have to find a moderate middle ground — and that’s doom.


Filed under: Iraq, Global Politics, MSM, The Press | |Send TrackBack

Outside The Beltway linked with Shiites Magnanimous in Victory
Signifying Nothing linked with A tale of two Shiites
PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Noonan on Blogs linked with [...] they are reporting upon. Case in point: the NYT story from earlier in the week on Iraq. As I noted, the reporter clearly lacked some basic understanding of how multi-party democracy typica [...]


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    1. A tale of two Shiites
      Is my brain malfunctioning or is this New York Times account of the Iraqi election outcome actually less pessimistic than this WaPo account? Of course, the WaPo account spends most of its first half trying to play up the idea…

      Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Monday, February 14, 2024 @ 10:01 am

    2. Shiites Magnanimous in Victory
      Iraqi Shiites Win, but Margin Is Less Than Projection (NYT rss)

      A broad Shiite alliance led by two Iran-backed religious parties won a slim majority of seats in the national assembly, final election results showed Sunday. The alliance’s victory - …

      Trackback by Outside The Beltway — Monday, February 14, 2024 @ 6:48 pm

    3. Well, I’m sure that, as much as anything, they want the headline to sound like there was or is a problem so that people will be more interested in reading it. But certainly there is evidence that the reporter doesn’t understand the process. It would be nice if people really would just report the facts without the spin, but I guess it’s not the American way (or the human way, I guess).

      Comment by Jan — Thursday, February 17, 2024 @ 10:12 am

    4. […] they are reporting upon. Case in point: the NYT story from earlier in the week on Iraq. As I noted, the reporter clearly lacked some basic understanding of how multi-party democracy typica […]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Noonan on Blogs — Thursday, February 17, 2024 @ 1:54 pm

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