Security stepped up for Iraq poll
"In Baghdad, bursts of heavy machine gun fire rattled through central districts at midday, and several heavy detonations shook the downtown area in the afternoon. American fighter jets roared through the skies in a show of force. Iraqi police and soldiers set up checkpoints through streets largely devoid of traffic. (...) Iraq's president has predicted that most of his country's people will not go to the polls for a historic election tomorrow, mostly because of security fears." (The Guadian)
"The election forms the cornerstone of the Bush administration's plan to transform Iraq from dictatorship to democracy after the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. But it risks fuelling a raging insurgency and fomenting sectarian strife. (...) The polls have divided Iraq. The 60 per cent Shi'ite majority strongly supports the election, expected to hand them political dominance after decades of oppression under Saddam. But in the Sunni Arab heartlands where the insurgency is strongest, few are expected to vote. Several leading Sunni Arab groups are boycotting the polls, saying the climate of violence means the election cannot be free and fair." (Melbourne Herald Sun)
"Many Iraqis vowed to brave the threat of bombs and bullets for what their interim government promises will be the country's first democratic election since the 1950s.
But others clearly were afraid of being targeted at the polls or afterwards, when indelible blue ink daubed on their fingers to prevent multiple voting could mark them for death."
In some parts of the country, officials have kept the locations of polling stations a secret until the last minute, so insurgents would have less time to plan. (...) "I don't know who to vote for. I don't know how to vote. I don't know where to vote," said Sheik Ahmad Al-Janabi in Falluja, a city west of Baghdad devastated in November by fierce fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents. "From what we know of elections, there are promotions, there is campaigning, there are places to vote. A person knows who to vote for to be able to vote. Have you ever heard of going to vote and not knowing the candidates?"
"But the turnout in Iraq will be critical in establishing the credibility of the election that could see the majority Shiite Muslim community take a leading role in ruling an Arab country for the first time in centuries. "
Tomorrow will definitely be a historic day but probably not for good reasons. This is likely to be one the least credible election ever. However it remains an absolutely necessary first step towards having a legitimate government. Even those who opposes the war (like I do) wish good luck to the Iraqi people as this day might seal the prospects of any political future for a "united Iraq".
The least we can say is that the country is not united.
These elections will probably make things worse but remain unavoidable. They will make things worse because they will show in a striking maneer that the occupation of Iraq is a failure and this is not a good thing for the coalition. They are yet unavoidable because Iraq needs a legitimate government to unite the country.
Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia: