The following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi president, Ghazi Al-Yawer. The interview was conducted on LBC TV (Lebanon) on January 23, 2005:
Ghazi Al-Yawer: We didn't undergo a crisis of civil war and therefore we don’t have to determine quotas for each sector of the Iraqi people. This people has lived for 7,000 years without a single event of violence on ethnic or racial grounds. Such a thing never happened. All these terms – Sunna, Shi'a, Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans, Sabians – were imported to Iraq over the past two years or so, and unfortunately, we have begun to use them. Yes, we all take pride in our past and in our national or religious sources of authority. But this country is what unites us. The Iraqi homeland is the melting pot.
The truth is that the Iraqi people feels bitterness and disappointment. Why is it that when we are concerned, white becomes black and black becomes white? In many countries, when there are elections, it is said that they are "the beginning of a solution," a "democratic climate," "openness," and everyone encourages them. As for Iraq, nobody encourages the elections. Some people question how there can be elections when foreign forces are present. I say that Israeli forces are occupying the West Bank, yet all the Arab countries supported and encouraged our Palestinian brothers to proceed with the elections. Why is this different in our case? This is the right of the Iraqi people. We don't want dictatorship or autocracy in Iraq. We want a collective leadership from among the Iraqi people, which will allow the Iraqi people to elect its leaders.
All the politicians in Iraq today claim to have millions of supporters, and if you calculate their numbers they present you'd find that we have a greater population than China. We in Iraq are confused. If we decide to keep the date of the elections as planned, we are told: "You are listening to foreign elements." And if we were to postpone the elections, we would be told: "You are feel too comfortable in your seats and positions." The truth is that this government finds itself in an unenviable position.
Interviewer: Mr. President, in light of the atmosphere you mentioned, what turnout do you expect in the elections next Sunday?
President Yawer: I am a politician and I cannot make a guess. I know that the number of those eligible to vote is approximately 13 million, according to the election commission, but the figure may be much lower, I don't know. In centuries-old democracies, if 50% of those eligible actually vote it is very good - even if only 40%. In this part of the world, we live according to a culture that believes it is better to die than to be anything other than number one. If the leader doesn’t get 99.9% he is not considered legitimate, whereas anyone who gets 50.5% is considered a legitimate president in any democracy in the world. We must modify our culture to accept reality, and sometimes admit defeat and support the winner.