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.
Interesting stats. If the Sunnis ever decided to crack down imagine how low they'd drop.
The Dems and the MSM will have a tough morning tomorrow. The terrorists really let them down today.
The only way the MSM would be interested in this major news is if exit polls showed Kerry in the lead.
The disaster they've been cheering for to occur for the last few months never happened. To people with a brain, it makes them look bad. Good.
The New York Times would have called the battle of Trenton "a pointless attack by a incompetent Virginia farmer."
However they did cut the power for a time so the MSM will question the results.
And it isn't coming from CNN or PMSNBC either. Their coverage today was abysmal.
Democrats everywhere are deeply saddened...
Right...........of the paper ballots. :)
Well they may have been confusing. /sarcasm
The last good coverage of Baghdad by CNN was when their news correspondence was from the top of a hotel back in '91.
One of those reporters of the news has since been fired.
The Dem's will make up for the loss....
LOL! Only to a Democrat in Florida, maine. :)
By appealing to the Florida Supreme Court?
Still one of the funniest South Park episodes of all time was the one when they made fun of the Florida recount.
Thank you Sara! You always have the greatest pictures!
It's tough to change a dogma so entrenched as this one.
After all, without sadness and despair where would the Dem's place their focus?
I'm not sure, now that praying for U.S. defeat hasn't paid off.
They will find a way after all their politics dictate self preservation above country so whatever it takes politically, they will pursue preservation.
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