Iraqi voters defy al-Qaida threat

first_img • AP Video: Turnout strong for Iraq elections. • Slide Show. • Latest images from Iraq. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BAGHDAD, Iraq – A man wrapped in the Iraqi flag. Women in black veils. Sheiks in white headdresses. Families in their best clothes, children in tow. All stood in line for the right to choose a parliament and participate in one of the freest elections ever in the Arab world. At first, turnout was but a trickle. As the day wore on, it turned into a procession. Up to 11 million of the nation’s 15 million registered voters took part, officials estimated, which if true would put overall turnout at more than 70 percent. So many Sunni Arabs voted that ballots ran out in some places. The strong participation by Sunnis, the backbone of the insurgency, bolstered U.S. hopes that the election could produce a broad-based government capable of ending the daily suicide attacks and other violence that have ravaged the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Difficult times lie ahead, however. The coalition of religious Shiite parties that dominates the current government is expected to win the biggest portion of the 275 seats, but will almost certainly need to compromise with rival factions, with widely differing views, to form a government. Many Sunnis said they voted to register their opposition to the Shiite-led government and to speed the end of the U.S. military presence. “Liberation is the most important thing for all Iraqis,” said Sunni grocer Omar Badry. “I don’t care if we die of thirst and hunger, as long as the Americans leave.” Opposition to the American military presence runs deeper among Sunni Arabs, the minority group which enjoyed a privileged position under Saddam, than among any of Iraq’s other religious and ethnic communities. While Sunnis were defiant, Shiites and Kurds seemed hopeful the new government would be more successful than the outgoing one in restoring security. A common theme, however, appeared to be a yearning for an end to the turmoil that has engulfed Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in March 2003 to topple Saddam’s regime. “The first thing we want from the new government is security,” said Hussein Ali Abbas, a Shiite as he voted at Baghdad’s city hall. Officials said it could take at least two weeks until final results are announced for the parliament, which will serve a four-year term. For More Infolast_img read more