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Reuters appears to have outperformed the BBC in reporting the historical turnout in Iraq's first multiparty elections in over fifty years. Luke Baker writes about the "festive voting" and the enthusiasm of Iraqis for democracy:
Some came on crutches, others walked for miles then struggled to read the ballot, but across Iraq, millions turned out to vote Sunday, defying insurgents who threatened a bloodbath.
Suicide bombs and mortars killed at least 27 people, but voters still came out in force for the first multi-party poll in 50 years. In some places they cheered with joy at their first chance to cast a free vote, in others they shared chocolates.
Even in Falluja, the Sunni city west of Baghdad that was a militant stronghold until a U.S. assault in November, a steady stream of people turned out, confounding expectations. Lines of veiled women clutching their papers waited to vote.
"We want to be like other Iraqis, we don't want to always be in opposition," said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after he voted.
In Baquba, a rebellious city northeast of Baghdad, spirited crowds clapped and cheered at one voting station. In Mosul, scene of some of the worst insurgent attacks in recent months, U.S. and local officials said turnout was surprisingly high.
Earlier, the BBC crowed over the low turnout in Fallujah, giving that fact the lead in its initial reports on the election. That turned out to have all the accuracy of an 11 AM VNS exit poll; the Fallujans just needed a bit more time to feel safe enough to cast their ballots.
In Baghdad, where Western news agencies widely predicted a low turnout, the city celebrated its freedom from oppression:
A small group cheered in Baghdad as Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, a descendant of Iraq's last king, went to the polls. Ali leads a constitutional monarchy slate in the election.
Western Baghdad polling stations were busy, with long queues of voters. Most went about the process routinely, filling in their ballots and leaving quickly without much emotion.
Others brought chocolates for those waiting in line, and shared festive juice drinks inside the voting station.
Samir Hassan, 32, who lost his leg in a car bomb blast in October, was determined to vote. "I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace," he said, leaning on his metal crutches, determination in his reddened eyes. ...
Baghdad's mayor was overcome with emotion by the turnout of voters at City Hall, where he said thousands were celebrating.
"I cannot describe what I am seeing. It is incredible. This is a vote for the future, for the children, for the rule of law, for humanity, for love," Alaa al-Tamimi told Reuters.
What's most striking to me is the video of the people coming to the polling stations, something I noticed last night but didn't write down. If you watch them walking to the polling stations, they aren't running or walking under cover, even though some appeared available. They're walking at a normal pace, out in the middle of the street, accompanied by their children. I'm sure they had some trepidation about voting, but they refused to be terrorized by the bloodthirsty lunatics that mesmerize the Western media. They walked tall, smiling for the cameras and waving Iraqi flags, as they defied the nihilists.
No one can now doubt that the Iraqis wanted to be freed of Saddam's grip, and that regardless of the various arguments about the origins of the war, our effort to spread democracy has succeeded. The massive turnout shows that Arabs want freedom and self-determination, not a Saddam-like strongman ruling through oppression.
I'd ask the Estriches and Kennedys today if after seeing this, they still think our liberation of Iraq was a mistake. Do we prefer this, or do we prefer the continuance of the rape rooms, the cut-out tongues, and the genocides of Saddam Hussein?Sphere It View blog reactions
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I don't know why it is difficult for everyone, at least in this country, to proclaim yesterday's election as a defeat for Islamists, anti-Democratic forces, and terrorists because that is what it clearly was. Yes, I understand that this was [Read More]
Tracked on January 31, 2005 9:20 AM
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