December 15, 2005


Twenty-Seven Million Iraqis against 10,000 Terrorists: Once again, it is time for the Iraqis to cast their ballots. This time, however, more Sunnis than ever before are likely to vote. Violence has been mounting in recent weeks in anticipation of the vote, but the people of Iraq refuse to be cowed. (Vera Kämper and Alexander Schwabe, 12/15/05, Der Spiegel)

The line winds through the enormous atrium of the old post office on Luckenwalder Straße in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg; waiting time is some two hours. Old men, pregnant women, and little kids stand around, some keeping warm by wrapping Iraqi flags around their shoulders. They don't mind waiting. These exiled Iraqi citizens in Berlin are taking part in the second democratic election since the fall of Saddam.

Sarmand Dashti is one of them. "Being allowed to vote here only strengthens the optimism that's been spreading since the war," he says. "The fact that Iraqis in exile can vote proves the democracy movement is coming along." Instead of voting by mail, the 56,000 Iraqis in Germany have the option -- in Berlin, Mannheim, Munich, and Cologne -- of casting their votes at polling stations, on a four-page ballot with more than 230 parties and party alliances. The idea of guiding Iraq's future from abroad makes the community buzz with excitement, and buses full of voters from Poland and Chechnya have come to Berlin, which is home to about 3,000 Iraqis. Abdullah Seuki came here from Kiel to vote in person. "I feel as though I've been reborn," he says. [...]

This time, over 1,000 Sunni leaders have signed a fatwa to urge the faithful to vote. And Sunni participation is essential if the democratic process is to have any chance at all. Sunni regions still see the worst resistance to the newly forming state, and only a high turnout among the Sunni minority -- which held the most powerful positions under Saddam Hussein -- can bring about a government recognized by all the factions in Iraq.

The signs are good. Like Iraqis in Germany and in a further 14 countries worldwide, those at home in Iraq are today heading for the ballot box. Six insurgence groups, including al-Qaida, have announced that they will not attack polling stations on election day. Rather, only the war against the foreign occupation forces will be continued during the elections.

In other words, it may be that US President George W. Bush was right earlier this week when, during a speech in Philadelphia, he said the Iraqi people were choosing freedom over terror.


Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2005 12:52 PM

I'll can't add anything to what Ms. Dawisha had to say on the subject.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 15, 2005 1:14 PM

Funny how the Europeans -- BBC earlier this week, now Der Spiegel(can LeMonde be ar behind?) -- are acknowledging that Bush is and was right.

The Democratic party and the American media, er, not so much.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 15, 2005 2:26 PM

I don't know who's idea it was, American or Iraqi or both, but letting Iraqi expats vote on foreign soil was a stroke of genius.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at December 15, 2005 7:53 PM