Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Age (Australia): Iraqis open 'door to freedom'. Iraqis walked through silent streets yesterday morning to begin voting on a new constitution which, if passed, would mark a major step towards the formation of the country's first full-term government since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Some of the voters marched to polling centres with close friends or family members, others alone. Iraqi policemen with Kalashnikovs guarded the centres, mostly schools, and frisked people as US troops sat in tanks and armoured fighting vehicles nearby. In Baghdad, helicopters buzzed low over dun-coloured rooftops. Nearly all civilian cars were banned from the streets because of strict security rules mirroring those put in place during elections in January. [...]

Reuters echoes AP: In unexpected calm, millions of Iraqis voted on Saturday in a referendum on a new constitution that is designed to reshape the country after Saddam Hussein but which many fear may tear it further apart. Insurgents fought gunbattles with Iraqi and U.S. forces in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, but throughout the capital and much of the country, voting appeared to go smoothly and safely for 10 hours until polling stations began closing at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT).