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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

And The Reporting Begins...

The following comes from Yahoo! News:


BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis lined up amid tight security Thursday to vote in a historic parliamentary election the U.S. hopes will lay the groundwork for American troops to withdraw, with a mortar landing near the heavily fortified Green Zone just minutes after polls opened.

No injuries were reported, but the blast underscored concerns of violence despite a promise by Sunni insurgent groups not to attack the polls.

Dozens of Iraqis waiting to cast ballots at Baghdad's city hall went through three separate checkpoints as police searched each person entering the downtown site.

"The first voting process to choose a parliament with a four-year term in Iraq has started," senior election official Abdul-Husein Hendawi said.

He said some polling stations in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 70 miles west of Baghdad, had not yet opened for security reasons.

A large explosion hit downtown Baghdad within minutes of the polls opening. Police said it apparently was caused by a mortar landing near the Green Zone that houses the Iraqi government and the U.S. and British embassies, but no injuries were reported.

A coalition of Shiite religious parties, which dominate the current government, was expected to win the largest number of seats — but not enough to form a new administration without alliances with rival groups.

Outside Baghdad city hall, Abbasiya Ahmad, 80, said she had voted for the governing Shiite United Iraqi Alliance.

"We hope that they will bring us security and safety. Also they are clerics, and clerics do not steal our money. We want people who protect our money," she said.

The Bush administration hopes the new parliament will include more Sunni Arabs to help establish a government that can lure other Sunnis away from the insurgency. Such a development would make it possible for the United States and its partners to start to draw down their troops next year.

But there were signs of the sectarian tensions that threaten the nation's future and the Bush administration strategy: Angry Shiites protested what they considered to be a televised slur on the country's religious leadership, and rumors spread of ballots smuggled in from Iran.

Also Wednesday, police arrested two suspected insurgents carrying 72 bombs, police Lt. Col. Ahmed Hajoul said. He said the pair said they planned to hide the bombs in the largely Shiite city of Hillah to explode when the polls opened.

A loud explosion also was heard in central Baghdad shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, hours after police said several mortar shells exploded in southwest Baghdad, setting some shops on fire.

Rumors also swept the Iraqi capital early Thursday that the water supply had been poisoned after warnings against drinking tap water were broadcast through mosque loudspeakers, but they were quickly denied by the Health Ministry.

Up to 15 million Iraqis were to choose 275 members of the new parliament from among 7,655 candidates running on 996 tickets, representing Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, Turkomen and sectarian interests across a wide political spectrum. Iraqis do not vote for individual candidates, but instead for lists — or tickets — that compete for the seats in each of the 18 provinces.

Some preliminary returns were expected late Thursday, but final returns could take days if not weeks.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, cast his ballot in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

"This is a good day and the Iraqi people bear the responsibility to vote for a better future. I hope that the Iraqi people will stay united. We hope that the people will vote to keep the constitution that was approved by the Iraqi people," he said.
Election of the new parliament, which will serve a four-year term, marks the final step in the U.S. blueprint for democracy. The vote will cap a process that included the transfer of sovereignty last year, selection of an interim parliament Jan. 30 and ratification of the constitution in October. The new parliament will name a government, including a new prime minister.

"In spite of the violence, Iraqis have met every milestone," President Bush said in Washington.

For the Bush administration, the stakes are nearly as high as for the Iraqis. A successful election would represent a much-needed political victory at a time of growing doubts about the war among the American public.

"We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator," Bush said. "It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in its place."

A march towards freedom and equal representation has begun, and nothing the terrorists throw at the citizens are going to matter. People are turning out in droves to vote. The threat of violence isn't dissuading any of them. They're going.

A side note: Interesting that Robert H. Reid mentions the two big rumors in his piece. That being the drinking water poison scam, which was confirmed as bogus by Iraq The Model a couple hours ago. Also, he brings up the bogus story by the New York Times (Sabrina nailed that first thing this morning) about the bogus ballots. Personally, I consider both stories irrelevent to the elections themselves. The drinking water story might be relevent as it was believed to have been carried out by the terrorists. This was refuted.

The New York Times story is completely irrelevent except in the fact that those on the Left at the Old Gray Lady would cheer if disaster struck on Iraq's election day. Likewise, based on their statements in recent days and today, the Left's leadership preaching cut-and-run strategies to the press would probably dance a jig if we failed in protecting the Iraqis today.

Let's hope and pray that this won't happen today. This is Iraq's day to shine.

Publius II


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