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After The Voting: A Promise or a Prelude to a Calamity PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 05 February 2005 11:35
Finally those who were insisting on proceeding with the elections on the scheduled date won the day.  The election process started two days earlier than expect, not in Iraq but in Australia by the Iraqis who have left the country during the days of Saddam. After the thrown of Saddam, these expatriates were given the chance to participate in the process that was lead by a UN agency, the International Migration Organization (IMO).  The IMO was put in charge of the process from Amman in Jordan from were the part of the election regarding Iraqi expatriates would be directed which in its turn would report to the independent high election committee for the Iraqi elections which was in Baghdad. The IMO has estimated that there were about a million Iraqis in 36 cities in 14 countries that were eligible to participate, but it was able to register only 280,000 people.  The expatriates were given three days to exercise their right to vote starting from the 28th at 8:00 AM Sydney time the Iraqi elections began but with low participation. The election process moved few hours later to Iran were there was a very heavy turn out and then to Jordan and Syria and few more hours later to Europe, and finally to the United States until it started in Iraq itself on the 30th.

In Iraq itself the groups who were against the process especially the Zarqawi people have declared war against the elections and threatened those who were going to participate with death but the local authorities backed by a huge support from the American and British military responded to the threats by mounting a very stringent security operation.  These operations included, putting the hospitals under a state of high alert and provided with the necessary supplies for dealing with emergencies, the curfew hours were extended to from 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM, the movements of cars between the provinces were restricted to be halted completely in the capital on the poling day, hundreds of road blocks were raised in the city, the country’s borders and airports were closed for three days. Baghdad was looking on the eve of the polling day more like a war zone than the capital of a country, which was on verge of its first real elections in fifty years. But even the government and the American Ambassador in Iraq admitted that all those measures might not be enough to contain the threats posed by the militants who were against the process and poised to destroy it at whatever cost.

On the eve of the elections, the mood of the people varied according to the ethnic or the religious part of the country. In Baghdad, the process has started in most of the polling centers at 7:00 AM, there was a perceptible fear and confusion which was compounded by the beginning of a very active mortar attacks and an attempted suicide bombing of one of the centers at 8:15 AM which was aborted when the attacker blew himself with the policeman who was searching him killing the two and injuring some people who were near by.  By the end of the day there will be about ten suicide attacks and many mortars aiming at the polling stations, which left about 40 people dead, and an unknown number of injured.  Around midday the attacks slackened a bit and the people’s mood improved. In the north and the south here were very long lines of people waiting to cast their ballots which included some truly amazing scenes of old men and women being driven in wooden carts or carried on the shoulders of young men into the polling stations to cast their votes, in these two parts the participation in the electoral process exceeded in some places the 90% mark with the number of the women in Al-Najaf city exceeding those of the men.

In Mosul, there was a heavy turn out in the left side of the city which is near the Kurdish area, but very poor turn out in the right side of city which is nearer to the western border. In Kirkuk, the situation was very confusing, because of the long standing dispute between the Kurds and the Turkmans over the control of the city which was complicated by the presence of the Arabs who were transplanted there by Saddam in his attempt to change its ethnic composition of the area. In the Sunni triangle, the participation was practically nil and most of the polling stations were deserted the Sunnis have kept their word and practically boycotted the election en masse.

At the end of the day it was estimated that about 8 million Iraqis has participated in the exercise which represented more than 60% of those who were eligible to vote.  These are not the official figures, we will know the final tally in less than two weeks.

These results of the election were hailed by the interim government and the Americans as historical and a great success.  These days are historical, because they have ended a very serious part of the Iraqi drama and are going to herald a new phase which might be either the beginning of the clearing of the mess we are in now, or it will increase the polarization of the society even more with the Sunni’s becoming totally alienated as a result of their marginalization.  If the Sunni situation is not dealt with fairly and cleverly, it will make the current mess even worse with the potential for very serious problems to the country, the region and also to the Americans.

Dr. Najeeb Hanoudi
Baghdad, February 5, 2005
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