Saturday, December 17, 2005

Economic Times (India): It could be a hung house in Iraq. Final results in Iraq’s parliamentary election may not be known for two weeks, but early indications show the Shiite tickets doing well in traditional Shiite strongholds, election officials said Friday. In Mosul, capital of the predominantly Sunni Arab province of Nineveh, indications were that the Sunni coalition came in first, said a representative for the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, Hameed Shabaky. He said the Shiite governing party apparently came in fourth behind the Sunni coalition, the Kurds and a bloc led by former PM Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite. Turnout in what was a mostly peaceful election was overwhelming. Election officials estimated up to 11m of the nation’s 15m registered voters took part in Thursday’s vote, which would put overall turnout at more than 70%. [...]

AP via Guardian (UK): A leading Sunni politician said Friday his party would be open to an alliance with secular Shiites and Kurds to form a coalition government to run the country once the results are in from this week's parliamentary elections. ``We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate,'' said Adan al-Dulaimi, a former Islamic studies professor who heads a Sunni Arab bloc that is now expected to have power in parliament. U.S. officials view al-Dulaimi, who heads an alliance called the Iraqi Accordance Front, as a possible intermediary who could persuade some Sunni-led insurgent groups in restive Anbar province to join the political process after boycotting previous votes.

Financial Times: Strong Sunni turnout in Iraq election raises hopes for successful democracy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

SignOnSanDiego via AP: Iraqi authorities tallied millions of ballots Friday as complaints grew about the conduct of the parliamentary election, including some allegations of "violent interference" with voters. The election commission said none of the complaints involved fraud. Officials said it could take at least two weeks until final results are announced for the new, four-year parliament because all the complaints had to be investigated. Preliminary results might be available in less than a week, they said. [...]

Financial Times election wrap-up: Iraqi officials began counting ballots on Friday for the first post-invasion parliament and began investigating allegations of violations, including the intimidation of voters, in a process that may determine how much legitimacy Sunni Arabs accord the country’s nascent democracy. Iraq’s Independent Elections Commission said final results would not be ready for at least two weeks, giving the commission time to address complaints. However, officials have said that preliminary results from the 6,230 polling stations may be available in a week. An IECI commissioner said that between 10m and 11m voters had cast ballots, between 65 and 70 per cent of the eligible population. [...]

Tentative Iraqi election results show the Shi'ite religious coalition is leading the polls in Iraq's five southern provinces, while the Kurdish alliance looks set to triumph in the north. On Friday, electoral and party officials said strong results for the conservative Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) were expected in southern Iraq. The UIA might face stiffer competition from secular former premier Ilyad Allawi in urban areas like Baghdad, whose list often scored second in Shiite regions. The UIA includes religious parties like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (Sciri) and Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Dawa party. [...]

News24 via SA: Counting begins after Iraq vote Votes were being counted on Friday after Iraq's legislative election saw a strong turnout with minimal violence. Electoral officials briefly extended Thursday's voting owing to the turnout, which preliminary estimates put at between 60 and 80%, surpassing an October referendum, with Sunni Arabs casting ballots in record numbers.

Daily Yomiuri (Japan) editorial: Iraq poll is a big step toward normal govt Iraq's general election, a major milestone on the road to permanent parliamentary democracy, ended Thursday without any major problems. Though the country still faces a host of challenges, the success of the election to choose a parliament means that Iraq has made another important step toward peace and stability. All the religious and ethnic groups in the country, including Sunni Arabs who boycotted the January election for the provisional Iraqi National Assembly, participated in the election. It is significant that every group in Iraq has now engaged in the political process for the first time. In particular, the participation of Sunnis in the process may help improve the country's security in the future because most of the militants in Iraq are believed to be Sunnis. Through a popular verdict, the first regular government to be created under the new Constitution will be able to claim a strong basis for legitimacy. [...]

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BBC News has an entire page of links to news reports, opinion, and analysis.

AP update:

Iraqis voted Thursday in one of the largest and freest elections in the Arab world, with strong turnout reported in Sunni areas and even a shortage of ballots in some precincts. Several explosions rocked Baghdad throughout the day, but the level of violence was low. The heavy participation in the parliamentary voting by the Sunnis, who had shunned balloting last January, bolstered U.S. hopes of calming the insurgency enough to begin withdrawing its troops next year. But much depends on whether the sides, after the votes are counted, can form a government to reconcile Iraq's various communities, or merely fan the current tensions. Officials were forced to extend voting for one hour, until 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EST) as long lines were reported in some precincts, which election commission spokesman Farid Ayar called a sign that the balloting "was successful and turnout was good." Results will be announced within two weeks. [...]

Despite their ethnic and religious differences, most Iraqis who voted Thursday agreed that what they need most from the future government is security and stability. Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Kurds, all said they need better than the misery they are living. "The first thing we want from the new government is security," Hussein Ali Abbas, 66, said as he voted at Baghdad city hall. "We also want the good for the Iraqis. We are surviving but it is a struggle." The insurgency has killed thousands and wounded many others the past 30 months. Car bombs and suicide attacks have spread fear by targeting mosques, churches, police stations, religious pilgrims and funerals. Theft and kidnapping for ransom also are common. Tens of thousands of well-off Iraqis have moved away, mainly going to neighboring Syria and Jordan to give their families a normal life. Those who cannot afford to go are reluctant to venture from home. After sunset, this city of about 6 million people turns into a ghost town. Few Iraqis want Saddam Hussein to return to power, but many miss the heavy-handed security during a 24-year dictatorship that made Iraq's streets some of the safest in the world. They are worn down by violence that President Bush this week estimated has caused about 30,000 deaths since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. [...]

Iraqis Rewarded for Patience at the Polls. Trodding along streets emptied of traffic, Iraqis swarmed to polling stations Thursday, lined up patiently to be searched, pored over long paper ballots with dozens and dozens of candidate lists and then cast their votes for a permanent legislature. Men emerged from one polling site in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood jubilantly waving hands with fingers stained with indelible purple ink to prevent multiple voting. [...]

Mariam al-Rayes still remembers the words of a skeptical colleague at law school. "You cannot work as a lawyer because people do not trust women lawyers," he told her many years ago. Since then, al-Rayes has successfully practiced law and gone on to become one of nearly 90 women in Iraq's current 275-member parliament, dominated by a coalition of Shiite religious parties to which she belongs. And she was hoping to keep her spot in the legislature, campaigning in Thursday's elections, but this time on a different ticket. Some women's rights activists argue that female legislators have little to show for their time in parliament. Harsher critics even accuse them of helping pass a constitution that the critics say undermines women's rights. [...]

New York Times: Outside Baghdad, Ink-Stained Fingers and Hope for Future

Reuters: Undeterred by scattered violence, Iraqis voted in overwhelming numbers in an election on Thursday, with minority Sunni Arabs who boycotted the last poll determined not to miss out on power again. Turnout in 10 hours of voting was at least 10 million, or 67 percent, Election Commission chief Hussein Hendawi told Reuters, much higher than the 58 percent who voted in the previous election on January 30. The demand to vote was so strong that polling stations were kept open an extra hour to allow those waiting in line to cast ballots. In Saddam Hussein's home province more than 80 percent of voters turned out, an electoral official said.

Scotsman: Election facts and figures.

L.A. Times: Iraqis walked through mostly silent streets this morning to begin voting in their country's most competitive election in decades, a U.S.-backed exercise that will produce the first full-term government here since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The mood of early voters was solemn. Some went to polling centers with their families, others alone. Iraqi soldiers and special police commandos guarded the centers, mostly schools, and frisked everyone entering. U.S. soldiers in armored vehicles patrolled the streets. [...]

Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington Post: After the Elections. Today is a historic day for Iraq. Iraqis of all sects and ethnic groups will participate in elections. Most significantly, the Sunni Arab community will participate in large numbers. More than 1,000 Sunni clerics have called on their followers to vote. A number of Sunni Arab political groups that boycotted the January elections are fielding candidates. Sunni Arab leaders have called on insurgents to cease their attacks, and some insurgent groups have said they will comply. Today's elections will create a National Assembly that is far more representative than the current one. This in turn can help accelerate progress toward success in Iraq. Success will depend on improvements in establishing a broad-based and effective government; building stronger Iraqi security forces, and gaining the confidence of all Iraqi communities in their security institutions; winning over insurgents to the political process; increasing the capacity of the national and local government; instituting economic reforms and promoting private-sector development; and gaining more support from neighboring states for stabilizing Iraq. [...]

Voting starts. AP updates:

Iraqis lined up amid tight security Thursday to vote in a historic parliamentary election the U.S. hopes will lay the groundwork for American troops to withdraw, with a mortar landing near the heavily fortified Green Zone just minutes after polls opened. No injuries were reported, but the blast underscored concerns of violence despite a promise by Sunni insurgent groups not to attack the polls. Dozens of Iraqis waiting to cast ballots at Baghdad's city hall went through three separate checkpoints as police searched each person entering the downtown site. "The first voting process to choose a parliament with a four-year term in Iraq has started," senior election official Abdul-Husein Hendawi said.

Buildings still lie in ruins, pulverized by one of the most intense urban battles of the Iraq war. The city is sealed off, with only residents allowed into or out of the tight security cordon. But despite continuing violence and intimidation in Iraq's insurgent heartland, turnout for Thursday's election in Fallujah, once the effective headquarters of the insurgency, was expected to be high. Iraq polls hinge on Sunni participation.

Jerusalem Post: Iraq locks down ahead of elections.

Knight-Ridder Washington: Building coalitions seen as key to success in Iraq

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Iraq election at a glance

BBC News: Iraq election: Turning point at last?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Officer's Club blog writes about preparing for the election.

Scotsman (UK): More than 1,000 Sunni clerics in Iraq issued a fatwa yesterday, telling members of their minority Muslim community to vote in tomorrow's elections. The call came as violence marred the last day of campaigning, with one candidate killed and another narrowly escaping an assassination attempt. Most Sunnis boycotted the elections to an interim parliament on 30 January. But Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, who heads the government agency in charge of the maintaining Sunni mosques and shrines, said: "This is a fatwa from more than 1,000 Iraqi scholars who are urging Iraqis to vote."


Nancy Yousef, Knight-Ridder: Election will set a course for Iraq. Plastered on the pervasive blast walls that protect buildings on nearly every major thoroughfare in Baghdad are dozens of poster-sized ads in rows, aimed at winning over passing motorists. Some have pictures of smiling politicians, while others show stone-faced religious leaders whose dogma could shape the next government. Iraqis will head to the polls Thursday for a National Assembly election that could offer a last chance to move a country that's rife with sectarian division and violence toward reconciliation and stability. If all works well, the elections might pave the way toward starting an orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops. [...]

Times of India: In a rare joint statement, al-Qaida in Iraq and four other Islamic extremist groups denounced the election as a 'satanic project' and said that "to engage in the so-called political process" violates "the legitimate policy approved by God." The groups vowed to "continue our jihad (holy war) ... to establish an Islamic state ruled by the book (the Quran) and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad".

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

AP: Iraqi expatriates turned out to vote Tuesday in national elections, leaving voting stations with ink-stained fingers and expressing hope for the violence-torn country many fled during Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

Washington Post FAQ: Iraq Parliamentary Elections

Monday, December 12, 2005

The voting has begun.

Coverage continues on Gateway Pundit.