Real election results are far in Iraq's future
Iraq citizens cast votes for representatives for four-year terms in a new parliament.
YESTERDAY'S heavy election turnout and the absence of large-scale violence are encouraging signs for Iraq's future. The returns are not expected to be tallied for two weeks or more and the consequences -- how the new, permanent government will function -- are months away. The election
sends a ray of hope that large numbers of U.S. troops will be sent home during the next year.
President Bush has called the election an important step toward Iraqi stability and democracy, but he made similar remarks about last year's declaration of Iraq sovereignty, January's election of a temporary government and October's referendum ratifying a constitution. The difference yesterday was the wider participation of Sunni Arabs, virtually absent in earlier stages of the process.
The provisional government was controlled by a Shiite Islamist coalition, while Sunnis had no representation at all. That resulted in a flawed constitution, the best feature of which was a provision that allows the permanent parliament to rewrite it.
Unlike the transitional assembly, each of Iraq's 18 provinces are guaranteed a minimum number of seats in the parliament. As a result, The Shiite coalition is expected to gather less than a majority of the seats while Sunnis might gain as much as 18 percent, according to some reports. The remainder is expected to consist of a secular coalition of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurdish parties.
That should result in multiparty negotiations over issues such as autonomy of the major oil-producing Shia and Kurdish provinces, allowing Sunni-dominated provinces to share in the nation's wealth. It also should prevent the creation of a Shiite government with strong ties to Iran's increasingly hostile theocracy.
Whether the new government evolves into a democratic and stable Iraq or the fission among the factions results in even greater insurgency and a weak government remains to be seen.
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