Sunday, December 11, 2005

Getting Ready to Vote







Iraqis are getting ready to vote and Thursday's December 15, 2005 ballot battle is expected to be brutal. Politicians are openly criticizing each other and posters are being torn on the streets. Going on a tour in the streets of the Iraqi capital, you feel the fierce competition between candidates. Blast walls that fill the roads of Baghdad are now decorated with elections posters of politicians promising Iraqis security, stability, prosperity and bright future. What makes this week's elections interesting is the expected strong participation of Sunni Arabs after boycotting the January 30 2005 elections. Turnout among Sunni Arabs was very low then after many of them responded to calls by their leaders that they should not vote as long as the country is under occupation. When I used to ask Sunni Arabs in January whether they will participate the answer from most of them was a big NO. Today it is the opposite. I went for a drive in Baghdad and was surprised by the amount of posters in Sunni Arab areas. In Azamiyah, Baghdad's predominantly Sunni northern neighborhood, I was shocked by the people's zeal to vote. Even the Imam Abu Hanifa mosque was decorated with a banner calling people to vote for the sect's main slate the Iraqi Consensus Front. In Azamiyah's Antar square posters were cluttered all over the place. This is a major change compared to January's elections. In Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City it is the same story but different banners and posters. Many of them carry images of Shiite clerics. In Tahrir square, the city's largest, there was a bigger cocktail of pictures since it is a mixed areas. "Yes to national resistance. No to terrorism," read a poster carrying the picture of Sunni politician Ayham al-Samarai. Others carried picture of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi reading "the man of this time, the man of the future." Thursday is getting close and we will soon know the results.
Bassem Mroue
Baghdad December 2005

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