: Well, The Times woke up on the wrong side of the bed in Iraq this morning:

The razor-thin margin apparently captured by the Shiite alliance here in election results announced Sunday seems almost certain to enshrine a weak government that will be unable to push through sweeping changes, like granting Islam a central role in the new Iraqi state.

The verdict handed down by Iraqi voters in the Jan. 30 election appeared to be a divided one, with the Shiite political alliance, backed by the clerical leadership in Najaf, opposed in nearly equal measure by an array of mostly secular minority parties.

According to Iraqi leaders here, the fractured mandate almost certainly heralds a long round of negotiating, in which the Shiite alliance will have to strike deals with parties run by the Kurds and others, most of which are secular and broadly opposed to an enhanced role for Islam or an overbearing Shiite government.

Or you could call that a check and balance, not unlike most parliamentary democracies in the world and even not unlike having a president of one party and a congress of another here. When the occupation began, I seem to remember doomsayers saying that the people were sure to elect an Iranian-style hardline religoius government. Now they elected a government that will have to find a moderate middle ground — and that’s doom.

  • The Shiite alliance got a percentage of votes comparable to Labour in Britain.
    Is the British government “weak”?

  • Heads they win.. Tails they.. win..
    Harsh Afghan Winter!!!

  • CharlesWT

    Perhaps the story was already written and they just needed to tweak the wording to fit the facts. They were probably prepared to write:
    The large margin apparently captured by the Shiite alliance here in election results announced Sunday seems almost certain to enshrine a government that will push through sweeping changes, like granting Islam a central role in the new Iraqi state…

  • The Wapo article is even worse. The first half of it quotes Juan Cole that the new Iraqi government will cozy up to Iran as if it’s the gospel truth, then 2/3 of the way in it finally gets around to quoting an actual Iraqi elected official. Usually Wapo is better than the NYT, but this time it’s worse. But it gave me a chance to quote you, Jeff. (scroll to second UPDATE.)

  • Lifestyle2020

    I’m baffled by your reaction to this article. The language in the piece is entirely neutral. Why do you conclude that calling the government weak is doomsaying? Or even pejorative? It’s simply a statement of fact, isn’t it? As the article says, a weak government will have a hard time “granting Islam a central role” in the state. Are you saying the Times would prefer an Islamic republic?

  • I thought the Iraqis had voted in a constitutional assembly not a real government. Sure, there will be a caretaker role for the temporary executive but the purpose of the assembly is to agree a constitution.
    In which case, the balance seems right to reach long-lasting compromises rather than one group steamrolling through their preferences over the head of the others. (Technically, a Shiite alliance of Islamists and secularists probably could do that anyway).
    The strong showing of the Kurds suggests a federal structure will be adopted and the lack of a clear majority for the Islamists suggests a moderate Islamic structure.
    I’m not sure this provides “checks and balances” but it certainly means horsetrading will be required to meet everybody’s objectives.
    Erm, except for Sunni arabs who will have to depend on either the charity of others or the insurgancies ability to cause sufficient chaos to bring to fore a Sunni strongman.

  • richard mcenroe

    So the people who worry about the Democrats’ continued viability in the US (we need a two party system!) think multiple parties make for a weak government in Iraq?

  • Good points, Seyed R. and Richard Mc. about the checks and balances.
    Unfortunately for this country, we have an administration that (while promoting democracy in other countries) is determined to ride roughshod over those wise forces that our founding fathers wrote into the Constitution to make this country strong.

  • dick

    Sorry about that but I think this government is trying to work with the other parties involved but they aren’t willing to. And would you please point me to even one case where the government ran roughshod over the rights of anyone? If they had then the idiots carrying signs tryng to get the privates and pfc’s to shoot their officers and NCO’s would be arrested and last I saw they were still parading out there.
    I guess it just depends on whose ox is gored. I seem to remember when I was a kid when the president (LBJ) ran roughshod over the rights of everyone and lied to the country to get his way and the MSM supported him to the hilt while he was doing this for the first 2 years. Bush has not done anything even remotely like that.

  • i just read this “analysis” by dexter filkins and i laughed so hard i nearly cried. its really sad. but funny too!

  • dick:
    Arrests and detentions without due process for starters, but I also note that the Pentagon set up its own intelligence gathering operation without even informing the Congress, by diverting funds appropriated for other purposes.
    Contracts were awarded for wartime operations which have violated the process of bid submission, and spent without review which so far seems to have resulted in a loss of over $5 million unaccounted for, without the Congress which is authorized by the Constitution to authorize expenditures.
    The (constitutionally mandated) Appropriations process has been (unconstitutionally) violated to the point that Sen. McKain has stated that he will make sure it isn’t repeated again.
    For starters.

  • lightspeed

    It does seem a bizarre choice of words–
    When I saw this headline on the way into work this morning, I went through my usual inner-conflict: I don

  • pianoman

    It’s just the sounds of the MSM moving the goalposts. Again.
    Ever since this dance began, the Administration has stated, repeatedly, that the process of democratizing the Middle East will be a long one. We are watching the process in action. It’s a good thing to see. Unfortunately, the frothing angry MSM, anxious to dump all over any perceived problem in Iraq, is now in full overreaction mode.
    Lost in all of this of course is that the Kurds finally have a say. So instead of being gassed to death, they will actually be able to contribute to their country’s future. And the Sunni extremists got only five seats, so their marginalization continues….as does the marginalization of the MSM, who sees nascent Iraqi governmental negotiation as a Bad Thing.
    Fortunately, it’s pretty clear what the NYT is doing. Most of the country isn’t buying it any more, and I think most people see the positives far outweighing any negatives.

  • Does nobody else find it funny that they described the “razor thin margin” in that vote, which was a landslide compared to how much Bush won by?
    Oh… no… sides … hurting… must … stop.

  • Howard Jaeckel

    I have to say that I’m with the reader who says he’s “baffled” by your reaction to Filkins’ article. When I read the article this morning, I was exhilirated at its substance and tone. In fact, I remarked to my wife that “even the New York Times” has to admit what good news the Iraqi elections results are.
    Among other things, Filkins wrote that the number of seats won by the Kurds, whom he called America’s closest allies, would effectively forestall the possibility that the Shiite parties would be able to fashion the new Iraq as an Islamic republic. This is bad news? This is doom mongering? How come I was so thrilled after reading the article?
    Believe me, I’m no fan of the New York Times. Its coverage of our election was so blatantly biased in favor of Kerry as to beggar belief. I also think the emergence of the blogosphere is the best thing to happen to media and democracy in a very long time. But there’s a danger in getting carried away, and assuming that everything published by the “MSM” is tendentious trash. For what it’s worth, I didn’t see anything wrong with the NYT’s report on Eason Jordan and blogs this morning either. As conservatives, let’s not mimic the liberals and view everything through the distorting lens of ideological bias.

  • Jeff,
    I think that overall, the three paragraphs you cited are actually spinning the election results in a positive way. The writer is saying that the Shiites are unlikely to impose an Islamic form of government, which was the biggest fear about the election results.
    I think the phrase that makes the paragraphs sound negative is “enshrine a weak government”. But this seems to be a case of sloppy writing leading to a poor choice of words, rather than negative spinning. But I can see how it gave you the impression of a nattering nabob of eeyore-ativity.