January 23, 2005


As Election Nears, Iraqis Remain Sharply Divided on Its Value (JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, 1/23/05, NY Times)

Hejaz Hazim, a computer engineer who could not find a job in computers and now cleans clothes, slammed his iron into a dress shirt the other day and let off a burst of steam about the coming election.

"This election is bogus," Mr. Hazim said. "There is no drinking water in this city. There is no security. Why should I vote?"

Across town in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, a grocer called Abu Allah stood behind his pyramids of fruit and said that no matter what, he was going to the polls.

"Even if there's a bomb in my polling place," he said, "I will go in it."

If Iraq was ever a divided country, it is especially divided now.

With Iraq's crucial election coming up on Jan. 30, people here still have strikingly different views on the vote, with the disparities apparently based not on class or education or sex or age but on the country's stubbornly durable fault lines of ethnic and religious affiliation.

The biggest chasm seems to be between the most powerful groups in Iraq: the Shiites and the Sunnis. Every single Shiite interviewed for this article said he or she planned to vote. Though there are a few Sunni leaders running for office, all the Sunnis interviewed, except one, said they were going to boycott. That could mean a humiliation for American forces and the new Iraqi government, who have relentlessly pounded the Sunni areas in a so far unsuccessful campaign to wipe out the resistance.

Granted, the opinions of 50 to 60 people, all told, hardly constitute a scientific sample. But they are revealing.

More revealing than the scientific polling which indicates no serious division?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 9:16 AM
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