Routine Tasks of Democracy? Check…

Yesterday’s election represented a display of political courage. In defying insurgents, Iraqis seized their country from the grips of terror — at least for one momentous day — and laid the foundation for democratic order.

But, as we are moved by such an inspiring story, we should also recognize less dramatic accomplishments that paved its way. After all, if we want long-term democratization, mundane nation-building efforts will need to be handled properly. As the Washington Post reports, the Iraqis excelled on this score, too:

Key Day in Long Process Goes Largely as Planned

Iraqi election organizers were delighted with their apparent success Sunday, celebrating the vote as a victory against insurgents and a triumph of democracy. “Freedom has won. We have conquered terrorism,” announced Adil Lami, chief electoral officer of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

Lami also released turnout figures — first 72 percent, then 65 percent — that he and other officials retracted hours later. The commission released a statement calling the numbers “very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field” and saying they represented “the enormous and understandable enthusiasm felt in the field on this historic day.”

Apart from this misstep, the elections appeared to go smoothly, the climax of a planning effort that began last summer. “I’m waiting for confirmation before I feel elated . . . but if the results received so far are confirmed, then it is very good,” said Carlos Valenzuela, the chief U.N. electoral adviser here, in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

U.N. advisers and members of the U.S.-led occupation helped Iraqi officials set up the electoral commission and establish a voter registration process. In the weeks leading up to the vote, the focus turned to delivering ballots and voting booths.

Organizers moved 3,630 tons of election materials produced on three continents to the more than 5,000 polling places in Iraq. Those logistics had to be coordinated with extensive security preparations designed to safeguard election workers, the materials used in the balloting and the voters themselves.

The very fact that these logistics sound routine — that the report doesn’t include extraordinary tales of adventure — is itself a success.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.