Skip to comments.High turnout in Iraq’s day of voting
Posted on 10/15/2005 12:07:24 PM PDT by freedom44
BAGHDAD - Iraqs deeply divided Shias, Sunnis and Kurds voted under heavy guard on Saturday to decide the fate of a new constitution aimed at establishing democracy after more than two decades of Saddam Husseins repressive rule.
A day that US and Iraqi leaders feared could turn bloody turned out to be the most peaceful in months.
Insurgents attacked five of Baghdads 1,200 polling stations with shootings and bombs, wounding seven voters. But the only deaths were those of three Iraqi soldiers in a roadside bomb far from a polling site, and there were no major attacks reported as US and Iraqi forces clamped down with major security measures around balloting sites.
The United States hopes the constitution will be approved so Iraqis can form a permanent, representative government and secure the country so Washington can start withdrawing its 150,000 troops.
In the south, Shia women in head-to-toe veils and men emerged from the poll stations flashing victory signs with fingers stained with purple ink, apparently responding in mass to the call by their top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, to support the charter.
Once the constitution is stable, the country will be stable, Rajaa Mohammed Abbas, a 35-year-old Shia woman, said after voting yes in the southern city of Karbala, where crowds of people marched after casting ballots, chanting yes, yes to the constitution.
But in Sunni areas in Baghdad and several key heavily Sunni provinces, a surprisingly high turnout in some areas seemed to consist largely of Iraqis voting no because of fears the new constitution would mean setting in stone the Shia domination they fear.
The Sunni Arab turnout was a dramatic change from January parliamentary election, which most Sunnis boycotted. Now they were eager to cast ballots, which could make the race tighter than expected.
This is all wrong. I said no to a constitution written by the Americans, said Jilan Shaker, 22, a laborer who showed up at a polling station in Baghdads Azamiyah district polling station in shorts and plastic sandals.
In the crucial northern city of Mosul, there was a constant flow of voters all day long into a kindergarten in a Sunni Arab neighborhood: men and women, dressed at their best in suits and ties or neatly pressed veils, many carrying young children in holiday clothes.
A top UN official told The Associated Press that turnout was very high in the predominantly Shia Muslim south but low in the mostly Sunni Arab western province of Anbar, where insurgents are active. Carina Perelli, director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations, also said voter turnout was very steady in many other mostly Sunni regions.
Voters at the countrys 6,100 polling stations marked their paper ballot yes or no under one question, written in Arabic and Kurdish: Do you agree on the permanent constitution project? After placing the ballots in the plastic boxes, the Iraqis had the forefinger of their right hands marked with violet ink.
A few Sunni leaders called for a yes vote after last-minute changes were made in the draft, but most urged their voters to oppose.
When polls closed at 5 p.m., celebratory gunfire was heard in Baghdad. Families handed out sweets to passers-by in the street ahead of the end of the days Ramadan fast about an hour later.
Vote counting began immediately. In Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, a handful of men sat around long tables with lanterns, putting yes votes in one pile and no votes in another.
Baqouba turnout is key because the city is in a province that is majority Sunni but has sizable Shia and Kurdish communities.
There are four provinces where Sunni Arab opponents are hoping to make that threshold: Anbar, Ninevah, Salahuddin and Diyala, all with Sunni majorities. But all of those except Anbar also have significant Shia and Kurdish populations mixed in who the opponents must outweigh to reach two-thirds.
So competition was at its fiercest in those areas, with all sides drumming out voters.
The government cant just sew together an outfit and dress the people up by force. We do not see ourselves or see our future in this draft, said Gazwan Abdul Sattar, 27-year-old Sunni teacher in Mosul after voting no in Nivevahs capital, Mosul.
But in a nearby mostly Kurdish neighborhood of the city, Bahar Saleh gave her support to the constitution. This constitution will at last give the Kurds their lost rights, the 34-year-old housewife said, coming from the polls with the red-and-green Kurdish flag wrapped around her body.
In Salahuddin province, just north of Baghdad, turnout may have been as high as 75 percent, local election officials said. In the Sunni Arab town of Tikrit - Saddams birthplace, hundreds rushed to the polls in the last minute to make the closing of polls and get home in time for the breaking of the fast.
But turnout also appeared high in mainly Shia towns and districts elsewhere in the province.
In Baghdad, American troops in Humvees rattled down Baghdad streets in patrols, while Iraqi soldiers and police ringed polling stations at schools and other public buildings protected by concrete barriers and barbed wire. Iraqi soldiers armed with heavy machine guns looked over polling sites from nearby rooftops. US troops in tanks and armored vehicles stood not far away as helicopters hovered overhead. Driving was banned to stop suicide car bombings by Sunni-led insurgents determined to wreck the vote.
Today, I came to vote because I am tired of terrorists, and I want the country to be safe again, said Zeinab Sahib, a 30-year-old mother of three, one of the first voters at a school in the mainly Shia neighborhood of Karrada in Baghdad. This constitution means unity and hope.
It's Bush's fault!
God bless and protect these brave, strong people, and thank You Lord, for our incredible troops and Commander in Chief that gave the Iraqi people their freedom!
This will be a tough time for the terrorists, liberals, and demorats if democracy succeeds. We need to be sensitive to their losses which means a win for representative government.
And this will never be reported buy the anti-American left wing press in the United States or the international media. They all desire failure and the placing of the people of Iraq back under a dictator. So they can again get money and slaves by backing the dictator like they did Saddam.
The government cant just sew together an outfit and dress the people up by force."
That is some quote. Quite an image it gives my mind.
I've been thinking about those millions of Iraqis who risked death and how many walked for hours to vote (the roads were closed due to fear of car bombs) and to exercise a freedom many Americas take for granted or simply ignore. I've read accounts of how they jubilantly flashed their 'purple fingers' and it has moved me to tears!
And I've been thinking also of George Washington who against great odds, led our nation in the War of Independence and then in the establishment of a free nation.
How fortunate we are to have President Bush who has the courage to lead in the War on Terror and the vision to realize that a free Iraq is a model for the entire Arab world and the best deterrent to the spread of terrorism!
"It's Bush's Fault"
The 'purple' revolution goes on and freedom reigns. The ankle biting pundits and clueless democrats still don't get it. They are truly stuck on stupid with superglue.
From PowerLine Blog
They're Voting In Iraq
So far, things seem to be going well, with very little violence reported. I haven't seen any estimates of turnout yet. Iraq the Model reports:
Probably the worst thing today is the intense heat which was a little over 100f but that didnt stop the crowds from walking in the sun to the voting stations, I personally had to walk nearly 4 miles in total but its definitely worth the effort. The presence of Iraqi army and police units is heavier than it was in January elections and I also noticed that no multinational forces were on the streets and the only sign for their presence was the helicopters that patrolled the skies.
Generally speaking, the process is going smoothly so far and this is encouraging because terrorists usually concentrate their attacks before noon so hopefully it will continue like this for the rest of the day.
We hope so, too.
UPDATE: The polls are closed, and the referendum seems to have come off better than anyone could have expected. There was almost no violence, and turnout was reportedly strong nearly everywhere.
This is a huge victory for the Iraqi people, and a stunning defeat for the terrorists and their allies. It appears that the military actions that coalition and Iraqi forces have carried out over the past two months have been remarkably successful in degrading the terrorists' capabilities.
President Bush talked about the election in his radio address today. He also discussed the Zawahiri letter:
This weekends election is a critical step forward in Iraqs march toward democracy, and with each step the Iraqi people take, al Qaedas vision for the region becomes more remote. As Iraqis prepared for this election, the world learned of a letter written by a leading terrorist explaining why Iraq is the central front in their war on civilization. Al Qaedas number two leader, a man named Zawahiri, wrote to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. We intercepted this letter, and we have released it to the public. In it, Zawahiri lays out why al Qaeda views Iraq as 'the place for the greatest battle' of our day.
He says that establishing al Qaedas dominion over Iraq is the first step towards their larger goal of imposing Islamic radicalism across the broader Middle East. Zawahiri writes: 'The jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals. The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq. The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.'
This letter shows that al Qaeda intends to make Iraq a terrorist haven and a staging ground for attacks against other nations, including the United States. The letter makes equally clear that the terrorists have a problem: Their campaign of murder and mayhem is turning the people against them. The letter warns Zarqawi that, 'many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia.' Even al Qaeda recognizes that with every random bombing and every funeral of a child, the Muslim world sees the terrorists for what they really are: murderers at war with the Iraqi people.
These terrorists are driven by an ideology that exploits Islam to serve a violent political vision: the establishment of a totalitarian empire that denies political and religious freedom. This is why the terrorists have fought to prevent and disrupt this weekend's elections. They understand that the act of voting is a rejection of them and their distorted vision of Islam. Simply by coming out to vote, the Iraqi people have shown that they want to live in freedom, and they will not accept a return to tyranny and terror.
The terrorists know their only chance for success is to break our will and force us to retreat. The al Qaeda letter points to Vietnam as a model. Zawahiri says: 'The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam, and how they ran and left their agents, is noteworthy.' Al Qaeda believes that America can be made to run again. They are gravely mistaken. America will not run, and we will not forget our responsibilities.
In Iraq, we have brought down a murderous regime. We have stood by the Iraqi people through two elections, and we will stand by them until they have established a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. When we do, Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror and a partner for peace and moderation in the Muslim world. And because America stood firm in this important fight, our children and grandchildren will be safer and more secure.
President Bush can take great pride in this historic day.
Posted by John at 08:56 AM | Permalink
Regardless of which way the vote goes, I suspect that a large number of the people who do not get their wish will follow their historic tendency to resort to violence to try and get their way.
It is to be expected, normal growing pains for a culture emerging from under the thumb of a ruthless dictator.
I hope our guys are aware of the possibility, planning for the worst, hoping for the best, and that whatever harm comes out of this, it remains as minimal as possible.
Thumbs up to the Iraqi people as a whole for enduring the often painful transition to real freedom after all these decades in hell.
And this isn't news coming from Baghdad Bob! : )
Hey, show some respect for the highly acclaimed recipient of the "Nobel prize"!
So what if he is %$#*&^, *^&%*&#, and liberally "nuts"!
This news will make the Dems very unhappy
Amen, Julie! AMEN!
First they talk about Toledo, then Arkansas, and now rain in New England.
Holy COW! THIS IS IMPORTANT, FOX!! It's not your FOURTH or FIFTH story!
13 attacks. NO casualties! Praise the LORD!