Election day in Iraq

Iraqi voters are going to the polls in numbers in the historic parliamentary election:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Iraqis voted in a historic parliamentary election Thursday, with strong turnout reported in Sunni Arab areas that had shunned balloting last January, bolstering U.S. hopes of calming the insurgency enough to begin withdrawing its troops.

Several explosions rocked Baghdad as the polls opened, including a large one near the heavily fortified Green Zone that slightly injured two civilians and a U.S. Marine, the U.S. military said. A civilian was killed when a mortar shell hit near a polling station in the northern city of Tal Afar, and a bomb killed a hospital guard near a voting site in Mosul.

But violence overall was light and did not appear to discourage Iraqis, some of whom turned out wrapped in their country’s flag on a bright, sunny day, and afterward displayed a purple ink-stained index finger – a mark to guard against multiple voting.

“The number of people participating is very, very high and we have had very few irregularities,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told The Associated Press. “It is a good day so far, good for us, good for Iraq. This is a first step for integrating the Sunni Arabs and bringing them into the political process and integrating them into the government.”

The high Sunni turnout appeared to result in reports of a shortage of ballot materials in Fallujah and Ramadi.

Iraqi bloggers—both those living in Iraq and ex-patriates—are posting up a storm about the elections.

Iraq the Model has been in an absolute frenzy of posting and updating with pictures and on-the-scene reports from all over the country.

An Average Iraqi is posting a “Carnival of Voting” with lots of pictures of people going to the polls. He also includes a photo of his 85 year old grandfather happily and proudly raising his purple finger. I won’t steal his thunder by posting it here—go on over to his place and check it out for yourself.

Fayrouz of Iraqi in America is hopeful:

The Iraqi blogs’ galaxy is buzzing with discussions about the upcoming Iraqi elections. I’ve been very nervous lately thinking of which path Iraqis will take this time. I hope they go secular.

I just finished talking to my friend in Sydney. She’s going to vote for Allawi. BTW, she’s Chaldean. That’s a good indication on how most Iraqis are voting this time. They aren’t voting for candidates based on their ethnic group.

That’s a very good sign and, if true, may show that the tide towards faction is slowly changing.

No Pain No Gain posts from New Zealand:

The elections are a tough call this time as there hasn’t been so much voicing by the people of Iraq. But I can see and notice the tension going on between the List 555 United Iraqi Alliance, List 731 lead by Allawi, 730 list which is the Kurdish Coalition List composed of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and KDP (Kurdish Demo Party) and List 569 led by Ahmed Chalabi.

As they say, there are and have met Iraqis who are willing to vote for Lists 730 or 731 in the determination to dissipate the strong support of List 555. Which may rather happen as that is how you would stop a political party, but for IRaqis, many of them may be shia who are devout but are ready to vote for a list that is not 555 because of their dislike of the leaders in it.

Nibras Kazimi of Talisman Gate, a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, has a post on the elections with interesting commentary:

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV hosted Tarek Al-Hashimi (‘The Consensus List’ no. 618), Masoud Barzani (the ‘Kurdistan’ list no. 730) and Ayad Allawi (list no. 731) on its Min al-Iraq show yesterday. The presenter, Elie Nakouzi, gave each candidate one minute towards the end of the show to speak directly to the voters. It just happens that there may be a political alliance in the making between Hashimi, Barzani and Allawi to prop-up the latter’s bid for premiership. And just in case it escaped anyone’s notice, Nakouzi directed a question about the proposed alliance to Barzani. Call this a hunch, but I believe that is exactly what the Saudis are hoping for; let’s see if the media blitz they have afforded to Allawi and ‘The Consensus List’ on the various media outlets that they own would translate into votes tomorrow.

For those who believe in the “Babe Theory” he posts this picture from Reuters:

Not every Iraqi blogger takes such a rosy view. Imad Khadduri posts a parody ballot which, essentially, accuses all of the leading candidates of being puppets of Iran, the US, the Saudis, the CIA, etc. and threatens them with assassination. His point and the talking point of many pro-Ba’athists is that it’s not possible to conduct a legitimate election in Iraq while U. S. forces are in the country. There’s some truth to this. Certainly the presence of the Americans has some influence on the elections and which parties are in the running. But something else is equally clear: no legitimate elections at all occurred under Saddam and those who want a return to that way of doing things aren’t that much interested in democratic elections.

And Riverbend is bored by the whole thing:

Elections have been all we hear about for the last ten days at least.

The posters are everywhere in Baghdad. There are dozens of parties running for elections, but there are about four or five ‘lists’ which stand out from the rest:

– National Iraqi (731): Ayad Allawi’s list, which now includes some other prominent puppets including Adnan Al-Pachachi, Ghazi Al-Yawir, Safiya Al-Suhail, etc. Ayad Allawi is a secular Shia, CIA-affiliated, ex-Ba’athist.
– Unified Iraqi Coalition List (555): Hakim, Ja’affari and various other pro-Iran fundamentalists, in addition to Sadrists.
– Kurdistani Gathering (730): Barazani, Talbani and a few other parties.
– Iraqi Front for National Dialogue (667): Mainly Sunni, secular list – includes the Iraqi Christian Democratic Party and is headed by Salih Al-Mutlag.
– Iraqi Alliance Front (618): Mainly Sunni Islamic parties.

We’ve been flooded with election propaganda this last week. Every Iraqi channel you turn to is showing one candidate or another. Allawi, Hakim and a handful of others dominate the rest though. No one is bothering much with the other lists because quite frankly, no one hears of them that often. Allawi’s face is everywhere, as is Hakim’s turbaned head. It’s disconcerting to scan a seemingly innocent wall and have a row of identical Hakims smiling tightly down on you.

Let’s not kid ourselves. While these elections are necessary, they are not sufficient. They’re just one more step not the end of the journey. This is true for two reasons. First, Iraq’s new system is a parliamentary system. There will be a considerable amount of wrangling and horse-trading to form a coalition government unless one party wins an outright majority. Provisions in the new consitution among other reasons make this pretty unlikely. After the recent elections in Germany it took a month to actually form a government and we should expect no less from Iraq. And the dog in the manger continues to be the dynamics of faction which is still at work in the country. If one group or another can’t get what they want by democratic means will they take up arms? Without the active presence of Coalition forces in the country will it rapidly become another Lebanon?

I tend to believe that a generational shift will be necessary to remove this concern. That seems to be on Miriam of Pearls of Iraq’s mind, too:

I love the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish youth the very best. Back in October during the Constitution elections they were the ones out in the streets showing support. Pictures sent to me shows this number has grown fantastically as we are hours before Election Day.

The Kurdistan Observer’s article, “Kurdish Youth Hold Key To Power in Iraqi elections” rings true. Heads up world, the Iraqi and Kurdish youth are here to stay. I do hope they do vote up in Kurdistan and across Iraq to buy more time for change.

I ask them to have patience and as time goes by because changes do happen. The “aging” men that are there now… will be to dust in the near future. Educate yourselves, continue to be clever and practice diplomacy, keep up with international issues outside of Iraq and learn solid business and professional skills. This time of patience is happening rapidly. It seems like each second is eternality but surely it is not, time only waits for the youth to arm themselves with knowledge, with conflict reconciliation, with advance skills needed to run a true democracy.

12 comments… add one
  • All Things Beautiful TrackBack ‘Iraq’s Purple Finger Of Democracy’:

    “Today belongs to the people of Iraq, and we wish them both a speedy and successful path to the freedom of democracy…..The Glittering World has the best Iraqi bloggers round up.”

  • By the way, ‘the babes’ in your photo….those are the very hands you’ll recognize in my composition back at All Things Beautiful…

  • Hi Glittering Eye,

    Thank you for the nice post.

    Just a small correction. I no longer live in Dallas. Me and my husband live in Beaumont, TX on the Gulf Goast.

  • Thanks, Fayrouz. Force of habit, I guess. I just entered the old name of your blog on automatic pilot. I’ve fixed it now.

    Your blog is a regular stop for me.

  • Iraqis will definitely have factions. The key is what kind of factions will they have? If they have policy factions, all to the good. If they have ethnic factions, that’s a great deal more problematic. Faction itself is unavoidable. The large number of lists makes me hopeful that there will be enough factions that no one dominant force can emerge and an Iraq of negotiation and coalitions that shift in and out of the majority will emerge. That’s the best bet, long term for tolerance.

  • The factions that I’m concerned about, TM Lutas, are factions based on ethnic, religious, or tribal affiliation.

  • Dave Schuler – I was trying to make explicit what I perceived as implicit. One thing you ought to be hopeful about, it’s possible for both ideological and ethno-religious factions to coexist successfully. The mere existence of an ethnic faction (kurds, let’s say) doesn’t, by itself, doom Iraq anymore than the existence of the UDMR (ethnic hungarian party) doom Romania.

    I look forward to seeing the strength of Allawi and Chalabi. Their results will be good indicators of how far the idea of cross-ethnic appeals has penetrated Iraq. Another will be how much UIA has slipped.

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