Saturday, January 31, 2009

Provincial Elections

I wonder if any of our Arab and leftist brothers consider these elections to be a step in the right direction.

A step in the right direction

Jan 31st 2009 | NEW YORK

Nervous and hopeful, Iraqis vote in provincial elections on Saturday

'LOCAL elections can often pass unnoticed by the world beyond. But Iraq’s provincial elections on Saturday January 31st are of greater importance than most. The polls are a first test of strength for Iraq’s political factions since a flawed vote in 2005 and should also give some guide to a general election that is due before the end of the year. If the polls on Saturday attract a decent turnout and pass off fairly and peacefully, Iraq will have taken a big step towards becoming a functioning democracy. But much could go badly.

Only 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces will take part in the regional vote. The three Kurdish provinces in the north, and the disputed province of Kirkuk, will hold their elections later, marking that region’s semi-detached status. Better security, with American troops sitting back and leaving it to local forces, should ensure that most Iraqis with a vote will go to the polls. To this end, some 620,000 police, soldiers and other were allowed to cast advance ballots on Wednesday, freeing them for weekend duties. In a gratifying sign of how the main vote will go, turnout for early voting was said to be high.

This time around Iraq’s minority Sunnis are likely to be drawn into the political process. Dominant under Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni, they felt shut out and demonised after the American invasion in 2003. As a result most Sunnis boycotted the vote for both national and provincial power in 2005. Therefore this election will be the first real test of Sunni loyalties. If they turn out in large numbers, that would suggest that Sunnis feel they play an important role in the new Iraq. They have begun to claim a role in rebuilding Iraq; their tribal “awakening” of recent years has helped pacify parts of the country and weaken al-Qaeda.'


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