The Washington Times reports this morning that the heavy turnout for the Iraq elections not only surprised those in the West who thought that the threat of violence would suppress the vote, but shocked the Sunnis, who counted on it:
Sunni Arabs yesterday appeared shocked by the large turnout of Shi’ites and Kurds in Sunday’s elections, with some anxiously looking for ways to bolster their representation in the new government that will emerge from them.
But many Shi’ites, triumphant after voting in high numbers in spite of terrorist threats, had a simple message for the Sunnis who stayed home: Tough luck.
Yazin al-Jabouri, a spokesman for the Sunni-led Homeland Party, said many people in Sunni parts of the country hadn’t voted because the electoral commission had not sent enough ballot boxes and forms.
“They didn’t think people were going to vote,” he said, adding that he had sent a letter to the commission urging an extension in the balloting.
The jubilant Iraqis have little patience for those former Sunni masters who profited in the oppression of the Shiites and Kurds outside the Sunni Triangle. As far as they’re concerned, the Sunnis made their choice on Election Day, and that choice was to boycott and give comfort and aid to those who tried to disrupt the elections through violence. The purple-finger brigade made their lack of sympathy clear:
“We carried our father three hours to get him to the polls,” said Muthana Jaffar al-Tamimi, 30, a grocery store clerk and art school graduate in Baghdad’s middle-class Shi’ite neighborhood of Karada.
The Sunni Arabs “could have made the process successful themselves,” he said. “They could have gotten involved, but they didn’t. We decided our destiny. They decided theirs.”
He added, “It’s their problem.”
The American diplomat who briefed the reporters told them that the Sunnis still operated under the old paradigm of negotiating at gunpoint. They want power delivered to them by violence, not votes, and they failed to understand the depth of Iraqi desire to rid the country of that kind of thinking. Now they want a seat at the table despite their huge political miscalculation.
They will likely get it, at least in some form, although they will have to wait until the next general election to get seats in the new parliament. The great task for this session will be to produce a new constitution and the new executives, both of which will need Sunni involvement for the best chance of success. Look to the elected Iraqis to do some outreach to the Sunni community — a last-chance kind of offer, probably — but tie it to better cooperation with stamping out the last of the foreign terrorists and the Saddamite holdouts. Even the Sunnis apparently see which way the wind blows in Iraq these days.