CONCERNED IRAQIS and the international community followed with deep interest and hope the difficult birth of the latest elections law in Iraq.
The electoral processes in Iraq and elsewhere depend not only on the text of the law in force but also on its application, the commitment of the authorities to ensure free and fair elections and, in countries like Iraq today, the role of the United Nations and international observers.
One of the major problems regarding transforming Iraq into a real democratic state including conducting the forthcoming elections on the basis of democracy as recognized internationally is how to deal with the Arab Baath Party. It had dominated Iraqi politics before 2003. Iraq must also deal with other legacies of the pre-2003 regime as well as sectarian and ethnic divisions.
In accordance with the present Iraqi Constitution the Baath Party is condemned and equated with Nazism in Germany. However, the Baath Party has many members and supporters in Iraq who want to participate in the political process and are determined to use violence to end their political ostraciztion and to ensure that they would play a role in their country.
Many political leaders in Iraq today are former Baathists. Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and the former prime minister Ayad Alawi as well as many members of Parliament were Baathists, but left the party due to disagreement with Saddam Hussein.
Many other Baathists were willing to do so, but they did not have the chance due to the repressive machine of the regime. It is also a fact that a number of members of the Baath Party are accused of criminal activities during the 35-year Baathist rule.
The occupying powers as well as the special courts in Iraq (which have become known for its bias and lack of justice) have not establish a reliable justice system to deal with those Baathists who committed crimes during the previous regime.
For many Sunni Arabs in Iraq the Baathist label is used to prevent them from participating in the political process. Recently the prime minister of Iraq stated that there were attempts by former Baathists to infiltrate the elections through other political parties.
In the meantime, the Kurdish and sectarian militias, which have influential roles, are not conducive to true democratic elections in Iraq.
The United States alone could not play an active role in Iraq and the United Nations Security Council should intervene to ensure that the next elections in Iraq are free and fair by allowing all Iraqis to participate.
The government should be prevented from forging the elections. The security council and the secretary-general of the United Nations should demand that all political detainees be released and to end the alarming trend of executing hundreds of individuals without fair trails.
If the international community is able to succeed in having truly democratic elections in Iraq by allowing all Iraqis to participate in the political process, such a process will be a turning point for the country and for the Middle East.
However, the United States should act to encourage a more active role by the security council than before. I hope there will be democracy and decency in Iraq after years of chaos.
Araim is an adjunct professor of political science, Diablo Valley College, former senior political affairs officer of the United Nations and an Iraqi diplomat. He resides in Walnut Creek.