Dr. Adnan Sobeeh Thamer – Researcher in Anthropology
The crisis that the Iraqis experienced on August 29, 2022, and the armed fighting that lasted twenty-four hours after a series of events and rhetorical conflict, reached its climax 10 months ago. The theme of that conflict lies between those who claim constitutional legitimacy based on elections and those who link governance to the public and limit the equation of legitimacy through it, an equation whose interactions prove to be the wrong understanding of the relationship between the public and democracy, legitimacy, and elections. Concepts interpreted according to interests that lead them to a path that plunged the Iraqis into a fight that almost burned everyone; Were it not for its constraint on its second day, and the withdrawal of the Sadrists after their leader’s call to withdraw, the same approach may produce similar events, and perhaps they will be more dangerous to the current political system.
The beginning of the crisis dates back to after the results of the elections (2021) between the coordination framework and the Sadrist movement, as the two sides exchanged threats of popular power and democratic means. The Sadrists started it by talking about the results of the elections, which is the democracy that must be resorted to; Then the coordination framework met him by waving to the public as the first right holder whose right should not be waived. Then the vision was reversed after the Sadrists withdrew, so Sadr threatened to use popular force, claiming that it had legitimacy. Contrasted with the coordination framework, which sees that democracy is represented by what the current parliamentary representation has produced.
The truth is that the two views do not represent complete validity in any of the two stages. Neither elections represent democracy – rather it is one of its tools – nor does public rule represent legitimacy. These are phrases that third-world countries derive from real democracy, which believe that just because there are elections means that they have achieved democracy, knowing that many dictatorial countries hold periodic elections, it does not mean that they have turned into a democracy. Rather, there are countries ruled by one party that holds elections. Elections are a tool of democracy. There are a number of conditions, the most important of which is the acceptance by every one of the elections according to agreed-upon principles, as well as the level of public confidence in the elections and their mechanisms, the degree of monitoring, and their integrity and transparency.
One of the problems that the forces holding the political system in Iraq have fallen into is the constant expectation that democracy means elections. That expectation has infiltrated many segments of the people since the first elections held in 2004, as joys filled the streets, and satellite channels cheered the entry of Iraq into a democratic context, and they forgot that elections are a mechanism of democracy, which requires a number of conditions for that mechanism to be representative, the most important of which: The management of the country must be in the hands of the people who are actually elected, and the decision is entirely for the elected.
This problem was not specific to Iraq, but rather that many countries practice the electoral mechanism. Gulf states with a monarchy system, in which the king has a decision that goes beyond the decision of the elected, and there are states where spiritual leaders control legislation and direct the nation to specific issues without the approval of the executive members elected by the public.
After Iraq emerged from a totalitarian regime that controls all decisions, the public mentally attached itself to power; Because it is responsible for managing the state in its various formations; Therefore, the multiplicity of ruling leaders’ decisions under the name of political presence is not related to elections, as it places a barrier to confidence in those elections, and the feasibility of their outcomes.
The other problem is related to the understanding of democracy as the rule of the masses. This understanding was invested by the various parties in that the public is the ruler, inheriting concepts established by totalitarian regimes on the grounds of the revolution and the legitimacy of the public, even if its significance changed and became the rule of the public through elections. However, the truth says that the legitimacy of the public in a democratic system must be based on a social contract that guarantees the approval of all and gives it legitimacy. Otherwise, it gives a greater position to the authority and its leaders, with the legitimacy they produced through power and competition over it, without the availability of its mechanisms that make it a democratic authority.