Officials Inspired by Calm Czech Elections; Observe Democracy in Action

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 2004 | Go to article overview

Officials Inspired by Calm Czech Elections; Observe Democracy in Action


Byline: Bruce I. Konviser, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PRAGUE - Few Iraqis have paid more dearly in the fight for democracy than Sallama al-Khafaji, an independent member of the Iraqi National Assembly who lost her son and a bodyguard in an assassination attempt this year.

"Iraqis want elections, but we can't put the people into such dangerous situations - so we have to find a solution," she said during an 11-day visit this month to witness Senate and regional elections in the Czech Republic.

"It was beautiful," Mrs. al-Khafaji said of the Czech balloting. "There were no police, no military - the situation was very calm."

She and other Iraqi politicians and party officials made the trip - co-sponsored by Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) - to get a firsthand look at how to build democracy from the ashes of totalitarianism.

The IRI has been helping Iraqi politicians observe elections in several countries to get a sense of what a democracy can look like.

"We used the opportunity to let them see how democratic elections are held," said Jan Ryjacek, program coordinator for the Czech-based Center for Study of Democracy and Culture, the other co-sponsor of the observation.

The Iraqis - a cross section of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds - showed great interest in everything from the campaigning to the voting to the counting of the ballots, he said.

Not all of the delegates were convinced that the Iraqi elections set for late January will go as smoothly.

Baha Aldin Abdul Qadir, a Sunni member of both the Election Committee and the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), said he and his party would never accept an election result in which parts of the country - mostly in the Sunni-dominated center of the nation - are not able to vote because of security concerns.

"Would you in America accept such a result?" he asked.

Mr. Qadir, whose party announced that it was withdrawing from the interim Iraqi government shortly after the U. …

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Officials Inspired by Calm Czech Elections; Observe Democracy in Action
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