The Next Episode In The Long Series of Legitimate Iraqi Elections

Even though both the Americans and the Iraqis are admitting that the upcoming Iraqi elections will be "less than perfect," I've heard a lot of talk about the symbolic importance these elections will provide the people of Iraq. The argument is basically this: Even though half the country has promised not to vote, and we can't provide full security at the polling places, and even though Iraqi expatriots aren't planning to vote, it doesn't really matter because it's still an election. It's still better than what they had before. Oh really? You might recall the last Iraqi election before the war to bring "real" elections to Iraq:
Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK Saddam 'wins 100% of vote' Iraqi officials say President Saddam Hussein has won 100% backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years. There were 11,445,638 eligible voters - and every one of them voted for the president, according to Izzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council. [...] Before the vote, Washington dismissed the referendum as a farce after the last such vote gave the Iraqi leader 99.96% support. "Obviously it's not a very serious day, not a very serious vote and nobody places any credibility on it," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday. In London, the Foreign Office painted a stark picture of the "choice" facing the Iraqi voters: "You can't have free elections when the electorate goes to the polls in the knowledge that they have only one candidate, that candidate routinely murders and tortures opponents of the regime and the penalty for slandering that sole candidate is to have one's tongue cut out."
But apparently you can have free elections when the second largest religious minority decideds to boycott the election. This is why I don't buy the argument that we should keep to the election schedule just because it's an election. Elections, almost by definition, have to be considered legitimate (offer not valid in Florida or Ohio). It's really quite simple: If everyone knows it won't be legitimate before it even happens, then don't have it until people think it'll be legitimate. This time around, we're going to be like Saddam Hussein insisting that the will of the people has spoken and that (of course!) the results are accurate. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will be echoing the words of Ari Fleishcher: "Obviously it's not a very serious day, not a very serious vote and nobody places any credibility on it." Does anybody want to bet that there will be more than 11 million voters this time around?