January 31, 2005

Sunni Turnout Higher Than Expected Too

The chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, Fareed Ayar, said as many as 8 million people turned out to vote, or between 55 percent and 60 percent of those registered to cast ballots. If 8 million turns out to be the final figure, that would represent 57 percent of voters.

The figure was based on national returns, Mr. Ayar said, and included the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, which have large Sunni populations. The predicted low turnout in Anbar, a hotspot of Sunni resistance to the American occupation, was exceeded to such an extent that extra voting materials had to be rushed to outlying villages, where long lines were formed at polling stations, Mr. Ayar said...

...Even in the so-called Sunni Triangle people voted, too. In Baquba, 60 miles north of Baghdad, all the polling stations that reported indicated a huge turnout.

-- Dexter Filkins and John Burns, the latter ostensibly more optimistic than a few days back, in the NYT.

Make no mistake, and ignore anyone who plays the 'I thought it was 72% game' tomorrow. These figures, and the relatively robust Sunni turn-out, are truly wonderful news--and, it appears, in line with B.D.'s pre-election estimates.

Posted by Gregory at January 31, 2005 01:46 AM | TrackBack (13)

Although it is possible to give a people their freedom, democracy is not a gift which can simply be bestowed upon a people. Thus, before today, there was an open question as to whether the Iraqi people, with their history of ethnic divisions and totalitarian rule, would come forward, dispite the threats from outside insurgents, and openly embrace the process of free elections. Now, although there is still a long, hard, and dangerous road ahead for the people of Iraq, as Churchill (Winston not Ward) out it, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Posted by: The Opinionated Pawn at January 31, 2005 03:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reading this as well as some of the polling results coming out over the past few weeks makes me wonder where the means and money are coming from that fuel the insurgents. Many reporters and commenters on blogs (myself included) assume that local support is necessary for terrorism to succeed. At least on a tactical level, that seems true.

I'd be curious if anyone has any pointers to public information on this type of thing (or any knowledge to share). I know it's been written about fairly extensively in the case of the various Palestinian terror groups, but this particular insurgency seems to have different characteristics about it. The internecine nature of the terrorism doesn't really lend itself to the clear lines of the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

Posted by: just me at January 31, 2005 05:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does the public have to support the criminals in order for crime to occur?

More to the point, how many insurgents are there likely to be, given the level of violence?

The question is whether we are facing an insurgency, a guerilla war, a "small war," or simply banditry. Obviously, part of the answer you're likely to get will vary, based on the ideology of the person you ask.

But there is also the reality that a small group of dedicated people can certainly perpetrate mayhem even without much support from the population at large. If one presumes, for example, that some of Saddam's substantial financial holdings were being employed in this effort (be it via Oil-for-Food or other sources), or if one presumes that al-Qaeda is lending support (e.g., via Zarqawi), or even if one presumes that Ba'athists have access to money and support from, say, Syria, it would not be hard to maintain an insurgency.

Posted by: Lurking Observer at January 31, 2005 02:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Indeed. The first phase of this war, which was a military conflict between the (mainly) US forces and the ba'athist and jiahdist resistance, is now over. The second phase has begun: a struggle between Iraqi democrats and the enemies of Iraqi democracy.

Let's hope that our clueless media can retire the phrase "insurgents" and apply a mroe appropriate tag that recognizes the truly nihilistic nature of the anti-democratic violence. "Fascists" works for me.

Posted by: thibaud at January 31, 2005 06:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

who are the Sunnis expected to vote for, anyway? The leading lists I've heard of are Sistani's Shiite list, Allawi's list, the Communist party list, and the Kurdish slate, none of which strike me as likely candidates.

Posted by: Katherine at January 31, 2005 06:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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