Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Some Iraqis unimpressed with Democracy so far

(Reuters) - Many Iraqis who defied suicide bombers to vote in landmark elections now say they regret risking their lives for politicians they say care more about winning top government posts than rescuing the country.

Five weeks after the national assembly polls, Iraqi parties are locked in wrangling over who will get what posts, leaving Iraqis frustrated as violence rages.

As politicians from rival sects bicker, a suicide bomber killed 125 people in the town of Hilla last week in the deadliest single attack since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

"I considered elections as a big Iraqi wedding. I wore my best clothes, but now I feel betrayed," said a 40-year-old unemployed Iraqi who declined to give his name because of fear of attack by insurgents.

"I am angry and ask myself why did I vote? Why did I risk my life? Everyone seems busy trying to get posts and leave Iraqis to terrorists like the attack on Hilla," he said.

Iraqi government officials billed the elections as a big success after decades of oppression under Saddam's regime.

The Islamist Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance won by a slim majority, giving the sect power after years of Sunni domination under Saddam.

Since then, politicians from different party lists have worked to divide up key posts including that of prime minister.

But ordinary Iraqis say stability, promised by Iraqi officials as a fruit of democracy, is their number one concern ahead of the demands of rival sects or the question of who will get control of oil-rich cities.

"I feel frustrated and disappointed. It's nearly a month now and the lists couldn't form a government. We want to see the fruit of what we did," said Abdul Amir Najim, 40, an employee at a construction company.

"We went to elections because we want stability and security. But what we had instead is differences between the parties, withdrawal from alliances and terrorist attacks everywhere."

The sense of betrayal may not ease anytime soon. Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds hope to form a government before the first meeting of the National Assembly on March 16.

But that is looking increasingly unlikely, leaving a political vacuum in a country where the new political leaders are eager to reach a comprehensive agreement that satisfies everybody before choosing a new government.

"I thought after the elections our life would improve but politicians are busy with who takes the presidency and who is the prime minister," she said.

"Let anyone be the prime minister but he should improve our lives, security and curb corruption that spread everywhere," said pensioner Shireen Taha, 54.

Some Iraqis said the protracted negotiations are a healthy part of democracy, as long as they deliver.

"They are trying to reach a consensus. It's for the benefit of Iraq," said Yihya Ibrahim, 45, a taxi driver.

"It's part of democracy and the political game. I have no concerns on them being late as long as they reach a result that serves Iraq."