Sunday, January 30, 2005

THE Election

With the polls closed, CNN reports that the turnout was 72%. Powerline comments how Iraqis in Syria are voting, while Syrians never get that chance. Iraq the Model reports:
We woke up this morning one hour before the alarm clock was supposed to ring. As a matter of fact, we barely slept at all last night out of excitement and anxiety.

The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted "vote for Allawi" less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said: "You're a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people's choice. This is Iraq's army, not Allawi's".
This was a good sign indeed and the young officer's statement was met by applause from the people on the street.

The funniest comment on the MSM came from ScrappleFace, with the headline "Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings"

The New York Times reported :
After a slow start, voters turned out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as Iraqis here and nationwide turned out to cast ballots in the country's first free elections in 50 years.

American officials were showing confidence that today was going to be a big success, despite attacks in Baghdad and other parts of the country that took at least two dozen lives. Agence-France Presse reported that the Interior Ministry said 36 people had been killed in attacks.

Little Green Footballs reports on a protest in Madrid, protesting the holding of elections in Iraq.

The Washington Post reports on two interviews.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi elections went "better than expected" Sunday, despite conflicting reports about the extent of voter turnout in areas plagued by intimidation and violence.

She also called insurgents "terrible thugs" who will not succeed in stopping voting and the progress of democracy in Iraq.

"Every indication is that the election in Iraq is going better than expected," Rice said on ABC's "This Week."

But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sounded a note of caution in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press."

"It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote," Kerry said.

The London Times reports on reactions around the World. The most interesting part was that dealing with Iran.

Meanwhile in Iran, a leading MP said that Iraq's elections represented a "great step" towards the country's independence.

"The organisation of the elections in Iraq constitute a great step for Iraqis towards an independent and popular regime," Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Thousands of Iraqi exiles living in Iran have funded a lavish advertising campaign on Iranian state television in favour of the United Iraqi Alliance, a 224-strong candidate list of Shia parties running in Sunday's general elections.

Iranian state TV has also been carrying adverts for "List 169", a Shia grouping backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and led by Abdel Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Mr Hakim's party has close ties with the Iranian regime.

But most Iranian officials appeared to be staying quiet while voting was underway, with state television reporting only a strong turnout and minimising the impact of a series of militant attacks. Iran has been accused of meddling in Iraq and backing insurgents, charges the clerical regime in Tehran have denied.

Al Jazeera had a headline, "Iraqis show mixed response to polls":
A number of Mosul's Kurdish residents have defied death threats and an unstable security situation and headed towards the polls, but in some other Iraqi cities no one is voting.

As polls opened across the country, early signs showed a poor turnout of voters in Mosul. US soldiers were seen driving around city blocks asking why residents were not voting.

Despite a heavy US and Iraqi National Guard presence and no civilian vehicular traffic, six explosions rocked the city. The general hospital had no immediate word on casualties.

Voter turnout was heavy in Al-Qadisiya district of the city, however. A polling station for the city's Kurdish population is located in the heart of the district.

Meeting a deadline before the polls opened, Mark Steyn wrote:

But look beyond the numbers. When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they've been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don't want to blow their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of stable despotism. The naysayers in the Democratic Party and the U.S. media are so obsessed with Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condi getting that wrong and Bush getting everything wrong that they've failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been -- which in the end is far more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from their co-religionist mullahs over the border. In fact, as partisan pols go, they sound a lot less loopy than, say, Barbara Boxer. Even on the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it's time to cut themselves into the picture. The IMF noted in November that the Iraqi economy is already outperforming all its Arab neighbors.

You might not have gained that impression from watching CNN or reading the Los Angeles Times. The Western press are all holed up in the same part of Baghdad, and the insurgents very conveniently set off bombs visible from their hotel windows in perfect synchronization with the U.S. TV news cycle. But, if they could look beyond the plumes of smoke, they'd see that Iraq's going to be better than OK, that it will be the economic powerhouse of the region, and that the various small nods toward democracy going on in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere suggest that the Arab world has figured out what the foreign policy ''realists'' haven't: that the trend is in the Bush direction. When Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, warned that the U.S. invasion of Iraq would ''destabilize'' the entire region, he was right. That's why it was such a great idea.


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