Today's parliamentary election in Iraq has reportedly finished with limited violence and increased Sunni participation.
After the polls closed this evening, electoral commission officials said that turnout could have been as high as 11 million out of 15.5 million eligible voters, more than in October's referendum, when many Sunnis boycotted the election.
"There has been a wider participation by Sunni Arabs, so we expect the turnout to be higher," Mr. Ayar said.
The higher participation came in spite of some explosions in Baghdad and Ramadi, and sporadic reports of election irregularities, which Mr. Ayar said were being investigated.
Good for the Iraqi people. Good that they could go to the polls. Good that so few lives were lost, this time. Good that the Sunni have decided to participate. But do we know yet what this is going to get them?
Can all the purple fingers in Iraq solve the question of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish integration? Given the level of distrust, violence, and hatred we've seen thus far, I'd say not yet.
The vote is expected to reveal a fissure of another sort, between a Shiite coalition of religious parties on one side and a mostly secular array of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties on the other.
Sunni Arab leaders have complained bitterly that the Shiite-led government of Mr. Jafaari has waged a campaign of persecution against them. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that the Shiite-dominated security services have engaged in widespread abductions, killings and torture of Sunni civilians.
Arrayed against the Shiite bloc is likely to be a largely secular group of parties led by Ayad Allawi, the former Baathist and secular Shiite who has attracted a large following of Sunni Arabs. Along with the Sunni Arabs, Mr. Allawi is hoping to bring in the two major Kurdish parties.
A government under the leadership of Mr. Allawi, who is regarded as the American favorite, would steer a markedly different course from one led by the Shiite coalition. The Iraqis gathered around Mr. Allawi, including the Sunni and Kurdish leaders, are largely secular, and they view Iran with great suspicion.
I sincerely hope that this election does bring Iraq closer to democracy, that it represents in some small way the vaunted "advance of freedom" Scottie says it does. I love the idea of purple fingers against insurgents' bombs. It makes for some lovely imagery.
But we've long since learned that imagery isn't enough to win this war. All the "Mission Accomplished" banners in the world aren't enough to overcome the reality of a poorly planned and ineptly conducted war. And all the purple fingers in Arabia aren't enough to create democracy. At least not yet.
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