Iraq’s election day

Heavy turnout is being reported in Iraq’s parliamentary elections today, despite inevitable insurgent attempts to cow voters with violence. The New York Times:

Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks – as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened – did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.

At least 38 people were killed in Baghdad. But at the end of the day, turnout was reported to be higher than expected, and certainly higher than in the last parliamentary election in 2005, marred by a similar level of violence.

From a security perspective, no spectacular SVBIED attacks is the lede:

The extensive use of mortars and rockets suggested that a weakened insurgency had to shift tactics, perhaps because they were unable to maneuver cars or suicide bombers into the cities because of the intense security lockdown, with checkpoints erected every few hundred yards in some places.

From a political perspective, high turnout plus a nail-biter of an election are the stories of the day:

Despite a long delay, disputes over candidates’ qualifications, arrests, assassinations and finally an all-out assault by insurgents on Sunday morning, the election took place with only a few reports of irregularities. And by Sunday night, something rare was emerging in a region dominated by authoritarian governments: an election cliffhanger.

Official results are not expected for days, but after the polls closed at 5 p.m., party leaders said two coalitions seem to have fared best: the one led by Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al Maliki, who has campaigned for a second time on improved security in Iraq, and another led by the former interim leader, Ayad Allawi, who has promised to overcome Iraq’s sectarian divides.

It’s of course too early to tell, but if true, these not unexpected results strike me as ironic, given the way sectarian religious parties have continued to suck up so much of the media oxygen in the past few years. An Iraqi government that forces Maliki and Allawi to come to terms with each other is one the United States, the region, and especially Iraq can move forward with. Regardless of the pending outcome, three cheers for the brave men and women who stepped out to vote today. Good luck, Iraq! بالتوفيق

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6 Comments

  • KnightHawk says:

    Props to the Iraqi’s and all those that fell in order to make today happen.

  • Lorenz Gude says:

    Despite the received lesson of the Iraq war according to the media being that it was foolish and futile from the beginning to impose democracy on Iraq, Iraqi democracy persists and is clearly cherished by the Iraqi people who continue to insist on voting even if a mere 38 of them were killed because the opposition could only muster a bit of mortar fire. The paraphrase Hillary the media have to deal with the Iraq they have – not the one they wish they had.

  • Neo says:

    The Iraqi army did its job pretty well. Good news is often anti-climactic. Four years ago who would have thought Iraq would come this far. Hopefully forming the next government won’t be anywhere near as ugly as the last time around.
    If the formation of the next government goes fairly smoothly than I would expect the next phase of the drawdown to be substantial. Does anyone have the current number of American troops and any projections on the next phase of drawdown? After the formation of the next Iraqi government I would expect some sort of formal evaluation of the security situation.

  • Neo says:

    Don’t expect the pundits to change their tune anytime soon. Vietnam still casts a shadow over all American foreign adventures. They’ve already declared everything in Iraq to be irrelevant and doomed. The next catch phrase for the pundits will be “It took Saigon three years to fall after the Americans left”

  • Spooky says:

    I would advise caution however. Yes, its not the obvious stuffed ballot election of Saddam’s era, but a hung election…or close enough to one to cause calls of revotes and the like…could cause problems, especially in lieu of party-associated militias and the like.

  • Alex says:

    Oh look, Al Jazeera columnists are now calling Iraq an example for the region.
    //english.aljazeera.net/focus/iraqelection2010/2010/03/201035195518278382.html
    If I was an unshaven dictator of Iran, I’d be worried.

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