BEIJING, Jan. 14 -- The second Palestinian presidential election in history ended on Sunday and pragmatic and moderate Mahmoud Abbas was elected the new chairman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
The encouraging event has undoubtedly re-ignited a glimmer of hope on the horizon of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and is expected to help restart the stalled peace process in the whole Middle East.
Now another election is due to take place, in Iraq.
People in the world can not help but ask whether or not the forthcoming election, which has similarly drawn worldwide attention, will also bring a light of hope for peace to the violence-torn Arab country.
According to Iraq's interim constitution, Iraqis are scheduled to go to the polls on January 30 to elect a 275-seat Transitional National Assembly, which will then elect a transitional government. By the end of this year, a permanent constitution will be drafted and passed in the country, and a formal national assembly and government will be elected.
The schedule of Iraq's democratic "roadmap," designed by the United States, if realized as expected, will help resume peace and stability in Iraq.
However, the current situation is chaotic and far from optimistic.
With the elections drawing nearer, the country is witnessing a growing number of armed violence, bombings and suicide attacks, with the number of casualties among American troops, and interim government officials and security forces on the increase.
Within a week, two high-ranking Iraqi officials were assassinated.
Currently, a large number of Sunni Muslim parties have demanded a postponement of the planned elections, and severe controversy now exists with the Iraqi interim government whether the elections should be held as scheduled.
And the elections have seemingly become a life-and-death struggle between US President George W. Bush's administration and Iraq's anti-American forces.
In the eyes of the Bush administration, the smooth proceeding of the US-designed democratic process in Iraq lends justification to its armed occupation of Iraq and its push for a democratic process in the country. The elections, the Bush administration believes, will also help stabilize Iraq's domestic situation and extricate itself from the Iraqi quagmire sooner. Thus, it is expected that the United States will do all it can to make the event happen as scheduled.
But in the eyes of anti-US Iraqi factions, to prevent the US-arranged elections taking place is all about preventing legitimization of the US occupation of their country. It is thus natural that they would try their best to sabotage the elections, which some accuse of being organized and controlled by the pro-US Iraqi interim government and obstruct some Iraqis from casting their ballots.
Backed up by its overwhelming strength and the presence of as many as 150,000 troops in Iraq, the United States should be certainly capable of ensuring the scheduled holding of the elections. But Washington is incapable of guaranteeing the development of the post-election Iraqi situation in the direction drawn by itself.
Iraq is a multi-ethnic nation, comprising Sunni Muslims, Shias, and Kurds.
If the majority of Sunni Muslims resist the elections, the legitimacy of the elected Transitional National Assembly and the Transitional Government will be discounted to a large extent. Worse, the ethnic group, which makes up 20 per cent of the country's population, will most likely stand opposed to the ruling Shi'ite and Kurdish coalition government, thus putting the country at risk of a civil war. This will result in anti-American forces gaining more support from the Iraqi public.
If this proves to be so, the elections will bring the still chaotic country more chaos, instead of much-needed peace and stability.
Back in the United States, some insightful persons have warned the Bush administration of serious consequences if it forces elections.
Brent Scowcroft, a retired Republican and former US national security adviser to Bush's father, former president George Bush, has expressed his concerns over the Iraqi election.
If it takes place at all, it "will not be a promising transformation and it has a great potential for deepening the conflict," Scowcroft told an event hosted by the New America Foundation. "We may be seeing incipient civil war at this time," he added.
Bush, however, has not been persuaded by the warnings issued by one of his father's close friends.
Secretary of State Colin Powell also expressed his worries about the current situation in Iraq.
"I think we all are worried about what is going to happen after the elections," Powell told the ABC News programmme This Week. But insisted "the elections are a necessary next step."
Iraqis have suffered a lot from the war the United States forced on them and the ensuing ceaseless violence. They are now longing for peace and stability.
The war the United States waged opened a Pandora's box which has so far made peace and stability luxuries that are visible, but untouchable.
The forthcoming Iraq election may possibly comfort some politicians, but it is doubtful if it can open for Iraqis a window of peace.
(Source: China Daily)