Monday, February 02, 2009

Provincial elections Saturday and votes still be counted

Saturday in Iraq, provincial elections were held in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces. In his January 10, 2007 radio address, George W. Bush declared, "To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year." Two years later and they still weren't able to meet the benchmark of provincial elections in all the provinces. There were 14,428 candidates vying for 440 seats. Typical campaign poster can be seen in the photo below by Sgt Jerry Saslav, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs, a poster of the puppet Nouri al-Maliki in Sadr City.


The votes are still being counted. Turnout was very low despite talk during the lead up. Monte Morin (Los Angeles Times) explains:

Just over half of Iraq's 15 million registered voters cast ballots in weekend provincial elections, with turnout as low as 40% in at least one province, but Iraqi and international officials insisted Sunday that they were satisfied with the participation.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker characterized the turnout as "large" and Iraq's top election official called it "the most important election to take place since the fall" of Saddam Hussein. However, turnout failed to reach the 73% predicted by a recent government poll of 4,570 Iraqis.

Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) examines the preliminary results and notes winners appear to be "several secular parties" and Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation. These are preliminary results, as Rubin points out, not official ones -- they could change as happened in the US in the 2000 presidential election. No word on whether or not the US Supreme Court intends to step in should that happen. Rubin does note:

The Americans had pushed for the provincial elections as a way to redistribute power more evenly throughout the country after many Iraqis boycotted the last elections in 2005. It was unclear whether a lower-than-expected turnout, at 51 percent nationwide, would curb hopes that all Iraqi sectarian and ethnic groups could be more accurately represented.
[. . .]
Low turnout of just 40 percent in Anbar Province was a particular surprise because the area, for years racked by a brutal insurgency, is now relatively calm and many people were eager to vote after having sat out the elections in 2005. Despite the low numbers in Anbar, the electoral commission said Sunni participation nationwide was higher than it had been in 2005.

So Sunni participating increased and Shi'ite participation drastically fell? That is the conclusion one would have to draw. Ahmed Rasheed, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie, Missy Ryan and Katie Nguyen (Reuters) reported yesterday that 76% of registered voters participated in the 2005 provincial elections. The results, when known, will be interpreted in various ways. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "For the northern provinces of Iraq, the outcome of elections held Saturday will provide the first snapshot in decades of demographics and loyalties in areas that have become the subject of a visceral dispute between Arabs and Kurds. Newly elected leaders in these provinces, where Sunni Arabs are widely expected to gain political power, will be thrust into the debate over whether disputed territories, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, should be annexed to the Kurdistan Regional Government."

Saturday the Kurdish Regional Government released the following:

KRG statement on provincial elections

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) conveys its strong support for the provincial election process currently underway in 14 governorates across the Federal Republic of Iraq. The KRG has always been a steadfast proponent of democracy and the Iraqi Constitutional process, and welcomes the expression of political views through the elections.

Although there are no elections scheduled in the three KRG governorates and Kirkuk, the KRG supports all citizens who are voting today and is facilitating the voting process for those displaced individuals currently residing within the Region but casting absentee ballots for their original districts. In Suleimaniah, Erbil, and Dohuk there are 15, 23, and 33 voting centres, respectively.

As we watch some political candidates peacefully replace others in office, the KRG hopes that the spirit of fairness and democratic representation will be a precedent for future elections.

Unfortunately, the KRG notes its great concern that thousands of Kurds in Ninewah, Makhmour and Khanaqeen were unable to exercise their right to vote due to a logistical mix-up by the Independent Electoral Commission.

The KRG looks forward to working with elected provincial leaders, as we have in the past. We consider this election to be a positive sign for Iraq as it continues on a path towards peaceful coexistence and federal democracy.

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Greedy Pig" went up yesterday.

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