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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