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"72%" Iraqi Turnout Figure Already Plunging
BAGHDAD, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Iraq's Electoral Commission backtracked on earlier estimates of voter turnout in the election, saying a previous figure of 72 percent "was just an estimate" and indicated the actual figure was lower.Whatever the final number ends up being, you can be sure the Bush Media will keep saying 72% ("More than in the US election! Incredible! Aren't we great?"). More words from wet blanket Juan Cole:
At a news conference, commission spokesman Farid Ayar called the 72 percent figure a "guess" and said maybe up to 8 million Iraqis voted, which would be a little over 60 percent of registered voters.
"Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ... It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers," he said. "The numbers are only guessing."
The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. (This is the part of the process that I called a "joke," and I stand by that.)ABC is reporting 44 people killed on election day. Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney: great work. You can also count that they'll say the "high" turnout was an after-the-fact justification for the invasion, now that the other justifications have evaporated.
This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.
Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.
Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.
UPDATE: Good post runs down Bush's history of resisting the cleric Ali Sistani's call for this election and gives Sistani, not Bush, credit for the Shiite turnout today. Bush is getting his sound and image bites but is working behind the scenes to keep a religious figure from running Iraq.
UPDATE 2: From Robert Fisk in Iraq, by way of James Wolcott: "The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be 'allowed' to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shia Muslim areas 'where the polling will probably be high' and one in an upmarket Sunni area where it will be moderate. Every working class Sunni polling station will be out of bounds to the press. I wonder if the television lads will tell us that today when they show voters 'flocking' to the polls."