Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Under Ba'athist rule, proceedings from the so-called National Council were televised from time to time. The Revolutionary Command Council was the sole source of legislation, so basically the National Council had no other function but to approve and stamp the endless amendments. Votes were always unanimous. It was a joke really. A farce.
The National Conference also looks like a farce on the surface, but of a totally different kind. Here you have 1000-1300 delegates from all over Iraq, from all ethnicities, religions, sects and social backgrounds. A curious mix of people all put together in one room to try and choose 81 individuals that are supposed to represent Iraqis.
Young and old clerics in black and white turbans, groomed men in suits and carefully pressed shirts, tribal Sheikhs traditionally dressed, women shrouded in black abayas, others in the latest hairdressing style and glamorous fashion trends and some in headscarfs of every imaginable colour. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, judges, engineers, professors, teachers, generals, businessmen, artists, actors, activists, priests, imams, even sportsmen and a musician.
The spirit is there, even if they haven't fully absorbed Roberts Rules of Order:
It started out fine, then other delegates started interrupting others, walkouts, delegates swearing and shaking fists at each other amid applause or laughter from the conference, it almost came to blows at one point. Here is an example:
[Delegate speaking to the conference]: "The 'list' is an act of dictatorship, this is unacceptable. I am going to--" [Someone taps at a microphone to attract attention and starts his own speech reading from 2 or 3 pages in his hand]
[First delegate's eyes almost pop out of his face in disbelief]:"Excuse me sir, it was my turn.." [interrupting delegate ignores him and continues to give his speech]
[he gets applause from the crowd]
First delegate starts shouting: "This is unbelievable. Sir? SIR?? It's my turn. Can't you understand?" [starts tapping frantically at his microphone]
Second delegate: "Yes, but they ignored my turn as well. I have been waiting for a long time." [continues to read]
President of the committee: "This is outrageous. Sir, sir. You.. yes you. Get seated please. Allow others a chance." [bangs on the table] "What are you doing on the stage??" [he almost screams at someone behind him] "People please if you have a suggestion or something, write it down on a paper.. We can't continue like this."
[commotion in the hall]
First delegate: "I don't believe this. SIR? Don't you have any decency at all?"
[Laughter in the hall followed by applause]
It sounds to me that these 1000 Iraqis know all about democracy. Read the whole thing.
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