On March 8, the Iraqi Governing Council signed Iraq's new interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). The TAL is expected to go into effect on July 1, 2004 and may foreshadow elements of a permanent constitution. It will remain in force until a new government, scheduled to be elected by January 31, 2005, enacts a permanent constitution.
More than one hundred political parties have been established in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Some call themselves "movements," "associations," or "fronts," and they are dedicated variously to democracy, human rights, Islamic values, constitutionalism, federalism, national unity, and ethnic or tribal identity.
The current state of Iraqi media reflects both the pluralism and the chaos of post-war Iraq. There is abundant freedom of expression, especially in northern Iraq, whose semi-autonomy since the early 1990s allowed the Kurds to establish non-Baathist media outlets several years ago.
In an appearance on Cairo's "Dream TV" in the spring of 2004, the eminent Egyptian journalist Muhammad Hassanayn Haykal broached the deeply sensitive topic of Gamal Mubarak’s aspirations to succeed his father as president. For his efforts, Haykal was summarily banned from Egyptian broadcasts.
The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein's government dangled the prospect of an Iraq with freedoms of the press unparalleled in the country's history and indeed in the Arab world. The fall of Saddam's regime spawned dozens of new publications and broadcast outlets staffed by Iraqi journalists.
With sanctions lifted, Saddam Hussein removed from power, and Kurdistan the most secure place in Iraq, Kurdish media have unprecedented potential to thrive.
Each of Iraq's three elections in 2005 has been a landmark event: the first free and transparent election on January 30, the first referendum to approve a constitution on October 15, and now the first election to choose a permanent government on December 15.
The U.S. push for elections in Iraq by January 31, 2005 is motivated not just by a desire to meet a prominent deadline on the post-war transition calendar. Many senior U.S. officials also see elections as a crucial palliative to the country’s chronic instability.
Whether the Iraqi constitution is approved or not in the October 15 referendum, there will be new elections in December for the National Assembly and party alignments are beginning to emerge.
After several missed deadlines, Iraq's constitutional process has yet to produce a draft acceptable to Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs, and prospects are bleak. Both process and content, currently, are highly problematic.
Iraq's insurgencies began with the U.S. military invasion in March 2003 and gained momentum after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime when the United States moved to dissolve the Iraqi military and implement a sweeping de-Baathification policy.
After two postponements, the Iraqi National Conference finally took place in Baghdad from August 15-18. The conference, called for in the Transitional Administrative Law (Iraq's interim constitution) and originally scheduled for July, convened 1,300 delegates to select a 100-member interim national assembly.
With the conclusion of the Iraqi National Conference last month, the next milestone for Iraqi democracy will be the January 2005 elections for a 275-member Parliament. Already, the electoral system chosen for Iraq could dampen the prospects for a representative and democratic vote.
Against the backdrop of strife that plagues much of Iraq, key political institutions and a legal framework have been established for the country's first democratic national elections, anticipated for January. Voters will select a 275-member transitional national assembly, governorate assemblies, and a Kurdish regional assembly
Iraqi Kurdistan is the best functioning part of Iraq, an example of what stability and governance could theoretically bring to the rest of the country.
The second of June marked the second anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese writer Samir Qasir, with no indication of who ordered the car bombing that silenced one of the loudest Arab voices criticizing autocratic Arab regimes, particularly the Assad family in Syria.
Founded by Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr and inspired by his ideas of wilayat al-ummah (rule of the community), the Iraqi Da'wa party has evolved from an underground movement espousing Islamic revolution to a major player in an Iraqi democratic government.
Until recently Western assistance programs aimed at strengthening political parties were less present in the Arab world than in almost all other areas of the developing world. As part of the heightened U.S. and European interest in promoting Arab political reform, however, such programs are multiplying in the region.
The next few weeks promise to be monumental ones in Iraq's modern history. With the December election successfully completed, Iraqi leaders must now focus on making decisions that will determine not just how the country is run over the next four years, but what Iraq will look like in the longer term and whether it can avoid disintegrating into a bloody civil war.
Virtually autonomous since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has followed an uneven path on the road to good governance. Six months have passed since the formation of the current united Kurdish cabinet. While Kurdistan has been increasingly stable and secure, its potential for accountability and clean government has yet to be fulfilled.