Time for public interest to trump politics in Iraq

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

BAGHDAD - It seems the new Iraqi state still has a way to go before the interests of the public are put above those of its leaders.

There does not seem to be any sense of urgency among the leaders in Baghdad to settle the ongoing saga of who is going to form the next government, despite U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's recent statement affirming his country's determination to withdraw most of its troops after two months.

The March election proved that politics in our society is still very much polarized and personalized. No one managed to get enough seats to form a majority government.

The attempted alliances, the talks over forming new blocs and the dispute over the results are all centered on the issue of who should lead the country.

They do not address the questions the electorate wants answered: How will the next government work and what will it do?

The partisan divisions and personality politics that flourish in Iraq have caused the delay in forming the government. Almost three months have elapsed and we still do not seem any closer to having a new administration.

With every day that passes, the electorate is losing faith in the representatives they recently elected to office.

While these representatives fight over who is to be the next premier, they could also work toward bringing the views of the people to the foreground.

This could be done by seeking to build a national consensus over the issues that are important for the Iraqi voter over the next four years.

A team of elected representatives who are not seeking cabinet posts could get together to produce a national charter that sets the roadmap for the country over the next four years. Such a charter could also serve as the political program for the next government.

This would be a step to assure the public that Iraq's political process is about policy, not personalities.

The charter could address issues on which there is some consensus, ranging from security and national reconciliation to public services and good governance; from guaranteeing democratic rights and freedoms to economic prosperity and transparency.

The longer the current uncertainty continues, the more divided society will become and the less room there will be for a common platform that all Iraqis can agree on.

The longer it takes to name a prime minister, the more external interference will be allowed in the country's affairs, making the choice of leader less representative of Iraqi interests.

• Hiwa Osman is country director in Iraq for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict.

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