View Full Version : Frankly encouraging

01-31-2005, 11:39 AM
Within the bad, always is good to find the good. Hopefully this moment does not be spoiled in the next months and that country can find its due place and time to sovereignity.

Allawi: 'Terrorists now know they cannot win'
Iraqi PM confident as votes counted amid reports of good turnoutMSNBC News Services
Updated: 10:00 a.m. ET Jan. 31, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - As votes were counted in a national election where turnout might have been higher than expected, Iraq’s interim leader on Monday called on his countrymen to work together toward peace, saying: “The terrorists now know that they cannot win.”

“We are entering a new era of our history and all Iraqis — whether they voted or not — should stand side by side to build their future,” interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in his first news conference since Sunday's election.

"I will begin a new national dialogue to ensure all Iraqis have a voice in the new government,” he added. “The whole world is watching us. As we worked together yesterday to finish dictatorship, let us work together towards a bright future -- Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.”

Final results aren’t expected for days, but the country is already focusing on goals almost as challenging as the election itself: forming a new governing coalition, then writing a constitution and winning trust.

Strong turnout
Not even the country’s frequent power outages could stop the electoral process on Sunday. In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, election workers began their task crouched on the ground, counting ballots by the glow of an oil lamp.

The electoral commission said it believed, based on anecdotal information, that turnout overall among the estimated 14 million eligible Iraqi voters appeared higher than the 57 percent, or roughly 8 million, that had been predicted before the vote. But it would be some time before any precise turnout figure was confirmed, they said.

“Now I feel that Saddam is really gone,” said Fatima Ibrahim, smiling as she headed home after voting in Irbil, in the Kurdish northern region. She was 14 and a bride of just three months when her husband, father and brother were rounded up in a campaign of ethnic cleansing under Saddam. None have ever been found.

Forty four people died in a various attacks and eight suicide bombings on Sunday, but the absence of any catastrophic single attack Sunday seemed at least partly a result of the heavy security measures, including a ban on most private cars.

Iraq’s interior minister said insurgents used a handicapped child for one of Sunday’s suicide bombings. He added that 38 attacks were carried out against polling stations across the country.

Post-vote calm
On Monday, vehicles again wove their way down Baghdad’s streets, and the most of the nation was calm. But most traffic was still being blocked from crossing the city’s main bridges, indicating security was still in place.

It was still unclear if the successful vote would deal a significant blow to the insurgents, or rather lead to a short-term rise in violence. The militants might need time to regroup after the spate of attacks they launched in the weeks before the vote.

The ticket endorsed by the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was the pre-voting favorite, while Allawi’s slate was also considered strong. Once results are in, it could take weeks of backroom deals before a prime minister and government are picked by the new assembly.

Voters show off ink stain
Across much of Iraq there was a sense of accomplishment, with many voters displaying index fingers stained with purple polling ink, proud to have braved insurgent threats against the first multiparty poll in 50 years.

Praise poured in from around the world, but experts have cautioned that true success will depend on whether the result is accepted by the Sunni Arab minority.

“If the results are confirmed — and the only reason to be cautious is the lack of a complete picture — then it is very good news,” said Carlos Valenzuela, the United Nations’ election chief in Iraq, referring to turnout. “The challenge is for the results to be accepted by the Sunni minority."

While in some areas of the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad, including the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, many lined up through the day to vote, in other towns, such as Baiji, Ramadi and Samarrah, almost no voters showed up.

Sunni participation was considerably lower than other groups, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. That raised fears that Sunni radicals who drive Iraq’s insurgency could grow ever more alienated.

World leaders hail vote's success
The election was hailed as a success around the globe, with President Bush declaring: “The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.”

France and Germany, two of the strongest critics of the U.S.-led mission in Iraq, also welcomed the seemingly strong election turnout. A statement sent out by the German government described it as a sign of “the firm determination of the majority of Iraqis” to take charge of their nation’s future.

Much of the vote’s success — and even tensions in the region — will be measured by Sunni turnout. The Iraq vote will almost certainly bring to power the country’s long-suppressed Shiite Muslims, boosting the sect’s influence in this Sunni Muslim-dominated area and worrying countries with Shiite minorities.

Sunday’s historic election came only seven months after Iraq’s interim government took over from a U.S.-led coalition, and less than two years after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

The 275-member National Assembly, elected for an 11-month term, will draft a permanent constitution, and if the document is approved, Iraqis will vote for a permanent government in December. If the document is rejected, Iraqis will repeat the whole process again.

Deadly crash
Underlying the continuing risks in Iraq, a British Hercules transport plane crashed northwest of Baghdad shortly before polls closed on Sunday. Defense experts said it could have been shot down by militants.

Ten servicemen reportedly were killed, making it the deadliest incident for Britain since the war started in March 2003.

A little known Islamic militant group whose claims have in the past been discounted said in a Web site statement it had downed the plane.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.