Death-defying vote

Saturday, February 5, 2005

It is only human nature for people to want to do whatever they've been told they cannot do.

On election day in Iraq, the number of deaths caused by terrorists was lower than generally anticipated, and the number of voters -- some estimates say as many as 8 million -- who defied the terrorists and went to the polls was higher. Purple fingers wagged defiantly and joyfully in the country's first real vote in half a century.

As many as 44 people were killed by terrorists on a day when a strong turnout by the country's Shiite majority may have boosted the turnout to 60 percent of registered voters, although those numbers remain in question until the vote is tabulated. If that turns out to be true, it would rival the best turnout in the history of U.S. elections.

Early returns from Iraq also indicate another trend: Voters are favoring the slate backed by Shiite clerics over the slate headed by Prime Minister Allawi, who has received strong support from the Bush administration. This is an indication of the unfettered independence of the Iraqi voters in this historic election.

The voting went on despite 260 attacks on polling places and U.S. and Iraqi government targets during the day. Sixty attacks are recorded on an average day in Iraq.

One reason Iraqis voted in such numbers is because they know it's the first step toward getting U.S. troops and other occupation forces out of their country. And certainly the need to keep the slate of candidates secret until just before the election and the lack of participation by the Sunni minority made this election far from ideal.

But it was an election. And, by their votes, death-defying Iraqis have shown their acceptance of the touchstone of democracy: the ballot box.

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