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January 21, 2006
Iraq Elections Force Compromise

As expected, the Shi'ites have won an overwhelming plurality in the National Assembly from their elections last month, but failed to carry an outright majority. Instead, Iraqi political leaders will try to fashion a national-unity coalition that includes Shi'ites, Kurds, and Sunnis, the latter of whom imrpoved their showing to finish second:

The first official results in Iraq's landmark December elections showed Friday that the Shiite and Kurdish coalitions once again dominated the voting, but came up just short of the two-thirds majority needed to form a government on their own.

Sunni Arab parties won 58 of the new Parliament's 275 seats - the second-largest bloc of seats - giving them a much stronger political voice than they had before. That raised hopes that the Sunnis, who dominate the insurgency, might choose the political process over violence, and underscored the looming question of what role they would play as Iraq's leaders begin negotiating in earnest to form their first full-term government. ...

Some Sunni Arab leaders said they would mount a legal challenge to the election results, which they believe were marred by widespread fraud that favored Iranian-backed Shiite parties. But they conceded that the challenge was unlikely to succeed, and also made clear that they would not follow through on earlier threats to boycott the political process.

"We will deal with this subject positively," said Mahmoud Mashadani, a Sunni and leading member of the Iraqi Consensus Front, which won 44 seats. "We will not ask our members to go home. We will tell them to go to the Parliament."

Obviously this comes as excellent news in the progression from dictatorship to democracy. We are seeing a profound change in attitude from the Sunnis now that they have had a taste of being locked out of an election. This time around they voted in huge numbers. The Times doesn't get around to reporting it until well past the jump, but the voter turnout rate among the Sunnis were in the 80s and 90s. Anbar province, where most of the insurgency based itself until dislodged by the Marine Corps and Iraqi forces, had an 86% turnout rate, while Salahuddin turned out at 96%.

The new government should definitely try their best to include some key Sunnis in the power structure as a reward for their participation. The Kurds and Shi'ites understand that the long-term payoff of such integration will oustrip any perceived short-term power grab that would come from locking them out. The US and other coalition partners will undoubtedly lobby for that result, but I suspect that they will be preaching to the choir on this question.

Having a significant Sunni voice in the new government will take the rest of the steam out of the native "insurgency" and leave al-Qaeda exposed. AQ knows it, which is why they've been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the local police and especially journalists, in a last-ditch attempt to unnerve and derail the West's plans for the complete liberation of Iraq. The Iraqis themselves have delivered a message to Zarqawi: you've lost, and it's time to leave.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 21, 2006 9:31 AM

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