In today’s press conference, someone asked Bush about how the turnout in the Iraqi elections would affect their legitimacy. The questioner seemed think that a very high turnout (such as elections in the Soviet Union produced) would make the results legitimate, but low turnout (such as typical local elections here in Silicon Valley produce?) would raise questions about the election’s legitimacy. Why do suggestions such as that not produce ridicule? Is it due to a preference for easily quantified criteria?
A few minutes later, Bush took great care to avoid supporting free speech for Muslims who hate the U.S (he was asked about Jordan, but could easily have talked about other parts of the mideast). This hints at a willingness to prevent jihadists who seem to have support from a nontrivial fraction of the Iraqi population from campaigning, which might lend some plausibility to their boycott of the elections.
Another issue that is important in determining whether the elections are legitimate is whether there is any reason for one part of Iraq to be subject to the ideology of the majority within Iraq. Iraq is hardly a nation in the normal sense of that word – it contains several cultures, not fond of the idea of nation-states, who were made into a country by British decree.
If I had somehow become U.S. president around the time that Saddam was captured, I would have dispensed with recreating a national Iraqi government, and simply held hasty elections for ruling councils in each town/city, then I would have withdrawn U.S. troops.