February 1, 2005
IRAQ'S ELECTIONS: 'FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS'
** Global media more positive about elections than any development since fall of Baghdad.
** Dailies praise voters for their "courage and determination," term poll "auspicious."
** Still, "a rough road" lies ahead; some fret about possible rise of "Iran-style theocracy."
** Critics label elections "neither free nor fair," say only U.S. withdrawal can lead to peace.
'A ray of hope for Iraq's future'-- Global editorialists generally had a more positive view towards the Iraqi elections than any development since the fall of Baghdad. Writers praised the "courage and enthusiasm" shown by Iraqi voters determined to make it "clear that they want the right to choose their future." Brazil's center-right O Estado de S. Paulo termed the vote "a remarkable demonstration of courage and of faith in the superiority of the democratic regime over the authoritarian systems of government that Iraq has experienced." Held against "a backdrop of mounting terror and violence," the high turnout was "even more astonishing," judged the independent Cyprus Mail.
'Bush, victorious'-- Some commentators interpreted the voting as "a major victory" for President Bush, though anti-war papers were quick to repeat the poll did not "vindicate a misguided war." As did many leftist outlets, France's Le Monde judged that "President Bush has registered a success that will allow him to prepare an exit strategy" from an "increasingly unpopular" conflict. The "pictures of jubilant Iraqis" will also permit the president to "use different arguments when he calls for help," said a German daily. The U.S. is "right to hope for more contributions from their allies to stabilize the situation" even though its European allies remain "reluctant to get involved."
First step 'on a long trek to stability'-- Though many writers were "cautiously optimistic" about Iraq's future, they observed that its recovery will be "a long process, filled with enormous difficulties." As Hong Kong's independent South China Morning Post put it, "It would be hard to underestimate the hurdles standing in the way of developing a stable, democratic Iraq." "If the Shiites give in to the temptation of theocracy, the Sunnis to the fascination of suicide and the Kurds to the obsession of independence, all will be lost," declared France's right-of-center Le Monde. Observers urged the Shia majority "to embrace the Sunnis" and the Kurds.
A 'masquerade' to legitimize occupation-- Critics dismissed "the weirdest of parliamentary elections in modern history" as not having "expressed the will of the Iraqis." Britain's left-of-center Guardian termed it "difficult to be confident that this was a free or fair election, given the violence and intimidation surrounding it." More skeptical journals referred to the elections as a "farce" with results that were "preset" by the U.S. An Indonesian writer called the elections "only a formality" by which the U.S. would "try every...means to make their puppet figures win." A Jordanian daily argued the elections would make a difference only if they led to "genuine initiatives towards ending the U.S. occupation."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 132 reports from 59 countries January 31- February 1, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Iraq Sets The Tone"
The conservative Daily Telegraph took this view (2/1): "The role of the coalition forces, and the Iraqi national guardsmen and police whom they are training, remains crucial. To talk of allied withdrawal while the outcome of the election is unknown is simply irresponsible. Thereafter it may be possible to pull back as the indigenous security forces improve. But that promises to be a gradual process."
"The Power Of Democracy"
The conservative Times editorialized (2/1): "Those tired governments in the region that fear the Iraqi example or have colluded with thugs to keep themselves in power will find it hard to explain away these elections. Those Islamists who insisted that any vote supported by the Americans would be invalid have been exposed for what they are: bigots who can terrorize but never convince. Those governments, including several NATO and EU members, itching to embarrass the Bush administration, have now had to voice formulaic congratulations to cover their confusion."
"Iraqis Vote To Set Their Own Agenda"
The independent Financial Times concluded (2/1): "It is essential to bring genuine representatives of the Sunni community into the government and--more importantly--into the constitution-drafting process, if the insurgency is to be defeated. The new Iraqi administration must be ready to deal with nationalist and ex-Ba'athist Sunni leaders, to split them from the extremist jihadis who have no interest in a democratic Iraq."
"Courage Of Iraq's Voters Has Opened A Path To Peace"
The conservative Times editorialized (1/31): "Defying not only the violence of thugs but also the condescension of Western critics determined to undermine the election's significance, eight million Iraqis risked their lives to vote. Their bravery is a lesson to all who take their own freedoms for granted and offer 'cultural' reasons why others may somehow not be ready for them."
"Iraq Confounds The Prophets Of Doom"
The conservative Daily Telegraph commented (1/31): "Yesterday's high turnout, in defiance of the gunmen, should be celebrated. Of course the Iraqi insurgency is an important story. But this does not explain the loving attention devoted to each setback faced by the forces of order."
"Elections Inspire Hope For Democracy, But Cannot Vindicate A Misguided War"
The center-left Independent maintained (1/31): "We are as relieved as anyone that the voting passed off as well as it did. But the elections do not vindicate an invasion carried out on a false premise, a war fought without an international mandate or an occupation whose early stages were as disastrously mismanaged as they were."
"Bullets And Ballots"
The left-of-center Guardian took this view (1/31): "In many respects it is difficult to be confident that this was a free or fair election, given the violence and intimidation surrounding it. On one side, Sunnis were threatened by the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to stay away from the polls, while on the other Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued edicts requiring his followers to vote. The fruits of democracy have yet to be tasted in Iraq. Yet that is not to say that something good cannot come of it, just that it is not yet obvious what the final outcome will be."
"A Ray Of Hope For Iraq's Future"
The conservative tabloid Daily Mail held (1/31): "It is impossible to ignore how eager many Iraqis were to nurture the tiny, flickering flames of self-determination.... Their courage offers a glimmer of hope.... What the limited success of this election does not do though, is give the American and British governments a legitimate reason to withdraw their troops from Iraq."
"Election Hope For Iraq"
The left-of-center tabloid Daily Express commented (1/31): "There has been a great deal of dreadful news coming out of Iraq since the invasion; yesterday should herald a moment of cheer. There is now a real chance that Iraq could establish itself as a democracy. That is clearly the wish of the vast majority of Iraqi citizens themselves."
"From Tyranny To Democracy"
The right-of-center tabloid Sun argued (1/31): "The miracle of Iraq, to transform tyranny to democracy in less than two years, has been achieved without--in fact, despite--the European Union and the United Nations.... As ever when tough decisions are needed, there were siren voices on the left who whinnied that it could never be done. How wrong they were. And how right Blair and Bush were to ignore them."
The center-left tabloid Daily Mirror concluded (1/31): "There still needs to be a swift withdrawal of U.S. and British troops so that the Iraqis can run their own security. But if peace comes to Iraq it will be because its people are desperate for it. Not because President Bush wants it."
FRANCE: "The Courage Of The Iraqis"
Left-of-center Le Monde held (2/1): “The number of Iraqis who voted is in itself a major victory for which President Bush congratulated himself.... His obstinacy in resisting those who urged him to postpone the elections, a trait of character which is his strength and his weakness, has served him well this time and it would be indecent to reproach him for offering the Iraqis this chance at free elections.... Now the question arises about the ambition of certain ayatollahs to establish an Iran-style theocracy. Something that would worry not only the Sunnis, but also Iraq’s other neighbors and Washington.... In the meantime President Bush has registered a success that will allow him to prepare an exit strategy from a conflict which is increasingly unpopular in the U.S.”
"Europe Stops Short Of Congratulating The U.S."
Alexandrine Bouilhet noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/1): “Surprised by the success of the elections in Iraq, the Europeans are congratulating everyone, including themselves, but with the notable exception of the U.S.... In their communiqué, the five paragraphs devoted to Iraq mentions neither the Americans nor the British. As a diplomat on the side of peace said, ‘they have congratulated themselves enough as it is....’ More diplomatically, French FM Barnier reminds all that the U.S. is ‘part of the UN and the international community....’ More concretely, the Europeans are still reluctant to get involved in Iraq. For Barnier, ‘the Iraqi tragedy will not be resolved with more soldiers....’ Still the Europeans must make a ‘constructive’ gesture before President Bush’s visit to Brussels February 22 and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Paris on February 8. This is why the EU will be offering to train Iraqi police and civil servants, ‘but outside Iraq’ says Paris and Berlin.”
"From Cairo To Riyadh, Worry And Contempt"
Jean-Pierre Perrin wrote in left-of-center Liberation (2/1): “Before the elections Arab states voiced numerous opinions. After the votes are in, they are remaining noticeably quiet.... From Cairo to Riyadh and Damascus, all Arab leaders do not share the same opinion but they are all surprised by the large turnout, which they had underestimated.... They are not very talkative about two issues which are of concern to them and seem to be obsessing them: Iraq’s new multiparty politics and the question of reforms in the Arab world.”
Charles Lambroschini opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/31): “George W. Bush is claiming first victory.... But the outcome of these elections could well turn out to be ambiguous, somewhat like the proverbial glass, either half empty or half full.... Even seen as half full, it still does not mean that the Americans have managed to win the hearts and minds. Far from having been hailed as liberators, the GIs are unanimously proclaimed as a force of occupation. It is their presence that feeds the cycle of violence.... Ignorant about the world and blinded by their vision, the Americans often reach the right solution only after having run out of bad ones.... After the incredible error of having disbanded Iraq’s security forces, Washington did correct its mistake. Bush’s stubbornness, which led to the Iraqi quagmire, has at least had a positive outcome: Bush did not listen to those who suggested postponing the election.... But these elections are but the beginning of a long road. If the Shiites give in to the temptation of theocracy, the Sunnis to the fascination of suicide and the Kurds to the obsession of independence, all will be lost. This is why France and all the allies must help America to get out of the Iraqi quagmire.”
Patrick Sabatier argued in left-of-center Liberation (1/31): “The first elections in Iraq may not have been all that ‘free and legal,’ but they have nevertheless been a great victory for the Iraqis--‘kamikazes of democracy’ opposing ‘kamikazes of terror.’ The final results will confer on the National Assembly more legitimacy than Saddam Hussein ever had or than the interim government had.... But only on the condition that it not aim to implement a Shiite monopoly or a theocracy. And that it negotiate with the Sunni minority.... It must also be the premise for a rapid withdrawal of the occupation forces which are guaranteeing its protection. Increasingly, these forces are becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”
"A Vote Which Pleases Americans And Iranians"
Jean-Claude Kiefer observed in regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace (1/31): “The Sunni community...largely boycotted the ballot box. Its fate seems to be of little interest to Washington.... In order to tighten transatlantic ties, some capitals have toadied (to Washington) by proclaiming (the vote) a ‘victory for democracy’. The Americans...thereby gain the legitimacy they were unable to obtain...in 2003.... What will change in the daily lives of the Iraqi population after these elections? No doubt nothing.”
"Lessons From The Iraqis"
Dominique Gerbaud contended in Catholic La Croix (1/31): “Finally, good news.... This lesson in democracy and this desire to resist against the pressures and threats of the terrorists give at least two ideas about the Iraqis’ state of mind. First, that the people of Iraq are more peaceful than the images we have been getting from Iraq.... The other lesson is one sent to the Americans: by voting, the Iraqis are saying that they will not allow a foreign power to manage their country for the duration.... The Americans, who can feel relieved for not having caved in, wanted a democratic, stable and friendly Iraqi government. They may get democratic and stable, as for friendly, that’s a totally different story.”
"A Shiite Crescent In The Center Of The Middle East?"
Thomas de Rochechouart noted in popular right-of-center France Soir (1/31): “Next to the Iranians, and when it comes to the domino effect, the Americans may be only amateurs.... With the innocence of a sorcerer’s apprentice, Washington has re-distributed the deck of cards in the Middle East, and by so doing it has re-enforced its two major enemies: Syria and Iran!... Iran will be the great winner of this new card game...which is already worrying the rest of the Sunni regimes in the region.... Jordan is accusing Tehran of creating a of ‘Shiite crescent’ in the Middle. East. After Southern Iraq, the movement could spread to Bahrein, Saudi Arabia, and even Lebanon. A sort of Shiite domino effect.”
GERMANY: "Test Of Iraqi Courage"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented on the front page of center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/1): "A short time ago, many people thought that the elections could not be hold and assumed that they must be postponed due to the permanent violence. Given the 40 people who died in terror attacks on election day, the estimated turnout of 60 percent reflects the courage of Iraqis.... That so many of them had the courage to cast their ballots also disproves the assumption that Arabs and Muslims are not interested in democracy.... The election also means a victory for Iraq's PM Allawi, who is not especially popular. Like many other exiles he has a problematic history. But he stood firm and withstood the temptation to give in to the pressure of terrorists and to postpone the elections.... In the coming weeks, the election winner must consider moves appropriate to create confidence among Sunnis, who have boycotted the elections for many reasons, but could still be won for cooperation. President Yawer, a Sunni leader, will be in high demand here. Zarqawi and his fanatics cannot be convinced, but if the administration can use the impressive momentum of the elections to establish functioning political structures, the situation could stabilize. It is remarkable that Iraq did not break up into three parts after the war, as some had predicted it. Americans will stay for another year and a half at least. Most Iraqis will not like this, but there is no realistic alternative.... It is understandable that President Bush, whose war rationale dissolved in the desert, is now happy about the successful elections. But is there anybody who wants his policy to become a universally accepted maxim and method? The elections do not justify America's strategy to improve the world through preemptive wars."
Washington correspondent Dietmar Ostermann noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (2/1): "Not all Iraqis who cast their votes automatically endorsed President Bush's policy. On the contrary, many might have seen their votes as an attempt to overcome the unbearable status quo: the destructive cycle of violence of a murderous and arbitrary guerrilla and the counter-violence of the foreign occupiers. The father of this election was not so much Bush as the Shiite Great Ayatollah Sistani.... But there is no doubt that the U.S. and Bush benefit from this election. After months of bad news, the pictures of jubilant Iraqis will not only boost the morale of the U.S. Bush can now use different arguments when he calls for help. And also the hope that the Shiite election winner in Baghdad will be interested that the U.S. stays in the country for the time being might not be in vain. Washington believes it can cope and find agreements with every new Iraqi government--as long as that leadership is able to fill the power vacuum."
"Help From Allies"
Right-of-center Schwaebische Zeitung of Leutkirch editorialized (2/1): "Americans are right to hope for more contributions from their allies to stabilize the situation in Iraq. If former war opponents, such as Germany and France, now support them, they no longer run the risk of approving the invasion in retrospect. On the contrary, there are many reasons for Europe to bear more responsibility in front of its doorstep. The better training of troops outside Iraq could be a feasible policy. The elections in Iraq have given Bush the opportunity to do things right the second time around. If he takes it, January 30 could mark a turning point."
"Slave No More"
Clemens Wergin noted in an editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/31): "In view of the [terrorists] threat it is surprising to see how many Iraqis insisted on going to the polls.... With this massive turnout, a majority of Iraqis made clear by whom they do not want to be governed: by fascists of Islamic or Baathist color whose terror is mainly directed against the Iraqi population. What the election meant for the Iraqis could be best seen in region where people did not have to fear terrorist attacks: in the Kurdish North and Shiite South where people celebrated in front of the polling stations.... It is regrettable that Europeans in particular do not really understand the grandeur of this day when a people, who were enslaved by a dictator are about to decide on their own future. As if we do not want to accept that a false war can also have some positive implications--even in the midst of a post-war disaster, which Iraq still represents.... A people who demonstrate their will for democracy in such an impressive way deserve our support. We cannot blame the Iraqis that they were freed by a war whose justification was wrong."
Karl Grobe opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (1/31): "In one respect the Iraqi experiment succeeded: it took place, but the election was neither fair, nor free, nor democratic. They were not free because they took place under the state of emergency and the threat to use force; they were not fair because the candidates, who hand-picked by the occupying power, had a monopoly on reporting on TV; they were not democratic because the voters did not know the names of the candidates. That is why the Iraqi elections did not meet with the minimum requirements, which international observers set up for new democracies.... The ethnic divisions were confirmed...and this development is now preparing the bitter conflict between Baghdad and Shiite centralism against Kurdish decentralized federalism. In view of these facts, there can be no delight at the vote of the many courageous Iraqis."
"Victory Of Politics"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (1/31) argued: "Measured against the disastrous circumstances of the vote...this is a highly respectable, even a historic outcome. The majority of Iraqis gave those a brush-off who like to claim that democracy is incompatible with the cultural traditions of the region. Many voters cast their votes, even though they risked their lives for it. Of course this election has the flaw that some in the Sunni region in the center of the country did not vote...and this is why the integration of the Sunni minority...will now be a central task for Iraq's domestic policy. It is the great hope after these elections that a domestic policy is now set in motion, a policy that will be increasingly independent from the U.S. occupation power.... At the political level, even the Shiite and Kurdish leaders have realized that they must be careful when using the power they will now get through this democratic vote, since a peaceful and prospering Iraq is not possible against the Sunni minority. The international community, and the Europeans in particular, should now support the beginning political process as much as possible. The question in Iraq is no longer whether President Bush will get what comes of such a bloody war. The question is which future the Iraqis have who risked their lives on Sunday to go to the polls."
"Extremely Dangerous Steps To Democracy"
Peter Münch had this to say in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/31): "The elections in Iraq are over and it turned out to be an event between dances for joy and dances of death. In an admirable way, people thronged to the polling stations...and the terrorists failed with their efforts to make the vote impossible. We owe this good news to every Iraqi who voted by risking his/her life. But the hope that it is a vote for a better future is seriously subdued. Under such circumstances, such an election cannot mean a 'turning point' in the history of the country, as President Bush said by quickly analyzing the vote.... This election will not fill the Iraqis' stomachs nor will it make Iraq safer. The fact that, despite these facts, so many people took part in the election certainly documents the will of the people to turn from a suppressed subject to a citizen. But this vote also showed where are the breaking lines and the limits of such an Iraqi democracy. It will now be decisive to see whether the ethnic tribes in Iraq will merge to form one nation or whether the election deepened existing trenches.... After these elections, Iraq will have a democratically legitimized government, but it does not have a government that represents all tribes. This offers a new point of attack for the extremists."
ITALY: "From The Polling Stations A No To Kamikazes"
Marco Guidi judged in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (2/1): “The Iraqis voted not only to give themselves a democratic government...but also to say no to the bloodthirsty insurgents that continue to undermine the very essence of the country.... In the meantime, the terrorists were taught a lesson. They will continue to kill, but support will begin to diminish, until they are completely isolated. But a lesson was given to the Americans as well: Iraq is perhaps better than what they assumed. And it’s time to treat the Iraqis like a people that can become democratic.”
"Elections Are Not Enough To Export Democracy To Arab World"
Ugo Tramballi wrote in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (2/1): “To denounce the imperfection of Sunday’s elections in Iraq means to insult those who participated by putting their lives at risk. Will an exponential growth of elections...lead to the establishment of a civil society in a region that two years ago was defined the most depressed in the world by a UN study? What kind of reaction will the Iraqis’ electoral courage have on the surrounding areas? It’s best not to have high expectations.”
"The Strength of A People"
Angelo Panebianco wrote in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/31): “'Naturally, with these elections...‘democracy’ was not born in Iraq. Elections are a necessary, but insufficient, condition of democracy. It will be a long process, filled with enormous difficulties.... These elections have brought about something very important for Iraq, for the entire Islamic world, and particularly for the Arab world.... The first free elections in Iraq could bear fruit in the coming years in other countries as well, spurring many Arabs (and many Iranians) to ask their governing autocrats for free elections.”
"The American Game"
Vittorio Zucconi opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/31): “George W. Bush, ‘the fortunate son’, won his second election in three months and in ‘congratulating the Iraqis’ he was in fact congratulating himself.... He won. Although far away, we can see a dim light at the end of the tunnel.... The equation between Islam and terrorism...was a false one. Wherever yesterday’s elections...may lead...Bush is correct, there’s no turning back from this 'historical turning point.'... The 43rd U.S. president will not be remembered for his tax cuts or social security reforms.... Bush is Iraq. Baghdad will be his Gettysburg or [his Waterloo].... While it is only right that the ‘fortunate son’ boasts about the ‘taste of democracy’ he has given millions of Iraqis, it would be tragically ironic if Washington’s hawks should win, and if they were to read the Iraqis’ desperate need for peace, which they expressed by putting their lives at risk, as a green light for other wars.”
"The Defeat of Al Zarqawi"
Lucia Annunziata observed in centrist, influential La Stampa (1/31): “The picture which emerges from these elections is of a socially divided Iraq, in which Shiites and Kurds celebrate their rise to power while the Sunnis confirm their will to stay out. There are two sides to the situation. We can rejoice for the courage and enthusiasm shown by millions of people who yesterday celebrated their freedom from Saddam. But we cannot deny that without the Sunnis, or rather with them in arms, these elections are not decisive. The result is shaky. It is now up to the international community to decide how to address this duality: if pure triumphalism wins, as Washington seems determined upon, or if the skepticism of the Europeans, who appear not to want to ascribe importance to these elections, prevails, then the process that began yesterday will come to a halt. But if world governments work together with diplomacy and mutual candor to finish an incomplete process, which will include the Sunnis, then Iraq may have some chance of coming out of the war. The alternative would be a confirmation of the electoral split, which would lead to civil war.”
RUSSIA: "A Turning Point"
Aleksandr Danil'chuk and Anton Ivanitskiy judged in reformist Gazeta (2/1): "Given the election results, Iraq may have started changing its political structure. The Shiites are likely to get a majority in parliament, and the Sunnis, who formed the country's political elite in Saddam Hussein's Iraq while accounting for only 30% of the population, for the most part, ignored the poll, thereby losing meaningful representation at the 'top.' This can only mean that the Sunnis, the backbone of the resistance to the coalition forces, will continue fighting the 'occupiers and their supporters,' the proclaimed goals of the elections, peace and stability, still a long way off."
The following in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya was attributed to A. Safarin (2/1): "Are fair elections possible in a country occupied by foreign powers? When Putin went to Kiev shortly before presidential elections there, the West raised hoopla, clamoring about inadmissible interference in that country's internal affairs. But it does not think so of the presence of almost 200,000 foreign troops in Iraq. The election farce is so obvious, recognizing its results would be tantamount to being part of that show.... Why did they stage that bloody masquerade at all? The answer is that up to now U.S. presence in Iraq has been absolutely unlawful. After the elections, the new parliament and government will doubtless beg the Americans to stay on."
Oleg Komotskiy said in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (1/31): "Clearly, this poll has added to the White House's problems. Bush needs to convince his fellow countrymen that the war was justified and that democracy is gaining the upper hand in what used to be a bulwark of tyranny. This is uppermost, as Iraq occupation increasingly irritates Americans. The president's credibility is on the line--a fiasco in the Middle East would raise doubts about costly welfare reform and George Bush's other initiatives. That explains his wishful thinking. Apart from trying to get the nation to see things his way, the president will have to deal with a divided Iraq. The vote outcome is clear even before it is made official and will hardly please the Sunnis, who account for 40% of the population. That makes you wonder about the future of the Iraqi parliament."
Andrey Zlobin and Yelena Suponina wrote on the front page of reformist Vremya Novostey (1/31): "Those were the weirdest of parliamentary elections in modern history, held in beleaguered Iraq, with a 25-million strong population and 170,000 foreign troops on its territory. Locals call the foreigners nothing other than occupiers. Amidst violence, the focus was on the turnout, the chief yardstick of the poll's success. Even before the polling stations were closed, a spokesman for the Iraqi electoral commission said that 72% of voters had cast their ballots, and 90% had voted in predominantly Shia areas. But for lack of international observers, those could not be verified."
ALBANIA: "Lesson From Iraq"
Mass-circulation, left-of-center Korrieri commented (2/1): "Iraq demonstrated on Sunday a good start for the civilized world in 2005. Over 8 million Iraqis challenged the fear, the threats and undoubtedly, the doubts that exist with every people voting for the first time about the unknown that will ensue.... Iraqis proved that...they are more than certain about their own future. Yesterday, Iraq joined the club of nations who believe in the free vote...in spite of victims and hundreds of ballots with blood marks on them, right there, at the doors of polling stations."
AUSTRIA: "Oh, For The Precious Moment To Linger"
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer opined in independent Der Standard (1/31): "What remains is the question of how things will go on if the strategy of de-escalating the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians should prove a lasting one. It is difficult to shake off a certain uncomfortable feeling that--just as it happened during the Oslo peace process--once again both sides harbor incompatible expectations with regard to the question of what constitutes an historic breakthrough. Is it realistic that Likud boss and former settler protector Ariel Sharon will give the Palestinians what Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak could not or would not give them, and this as the result of the second intifada? Or that Mahmud Abbas, who, in the name of the Palestinians, will renounce what Yasser Arafat could not or would not renounce? This is no less unrealistic than to wish for the wonderful moment to linger."
BELGIUM: "A Thrill Of Freedom After Terrible Setbacks"
Diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert concluded in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (1/31): “By going to the ballot box despite all the threats and violence the Iraqis showed yesterday that there are no people who prefer dictatorship over democracy. Despite this success, everything can still go wrong in Iraq. The Sunni minority remains resentful because it has lost its supremacy and the subsequent wealth. A means must be found to involve the Sunni in the government. The Kurds will continue to struggle for more...and the Shiite majority will have to accept that its cannot take revenge for decades of bloody suppression.... Nevertheless, yesterday’s elections send a ray of hope. There is an elected Parliament now. If violence can be eliminated and if the agenda is maintained, the new government will draft a Constitution and organize elections in December to form a legitimate Iraqi government. Those who care about the Iraqis’ fate must hope for a successful outcome and offer all their help. A successful system of freedom in an Arab country can be a beacon for the rest of the region. That may frighten the regimes in the neighboring countries, but their populations have the right that their voices are finally heard.”
BULGARIA: "The Victory Of The Election Ballot Boxes"
Center- right Dnevnik opined (2/1): "And, so, the genie of democracy has been let out of the bottle in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis in the country and around the world voted and celebrated, some lost their lives in the dozens of suicide attacks, perpetrated by fanatics, who tried to prove that democracy is 'un-Islamic.' But at least for a day--but what a day!--the ballot boxes defeated the coffins despite.... Now the hard part begins--the announcement of the elections results, their recognition by the majority of Iraqis and foreign governments and the forming of a government.... The elections in Iraq are the first big battle of this war--a war, which is to be won not by the numerous foreign troops, but by election turnout."
"Elections And Blood"
The largest-circulation daily Trud commented (1/31): "The elections in Iraq aim not to elect members of parliament, but to create an impression of legality of power.... It's quite clear that the elections are not being held in a free and democratic environment and it's also clear that they would not result in a true popular representation.... After the vote Iraq will ostensibly regain its independence. The presumably democratic regime in Baghdad will have a 'lawful' basis to ask the American and other military forces of the multinational coalition to stay in the country and protect the achievements of the democracy."
CYPRUS: "Iraqi Poll A Victory Over Terror"
The Independent, English-language Cyprus Mail editorialized (2/1): "It is difficult to disagree with President Bush's assertion that the Iraqi elections were a 'resounding success' and a 'great and historical achievement.' According to initial estimates, 60% of registered voters--eight million Iraqis--defied the violence and terror to vote in Sunday's polls, the first multi-party elections in nearly 50 years. Any turnout over 50% would have been hailed as a success as it would be interpreted, quite rightly, as support for the establishments of a democratic Iraq by the majority of people. It is no wonder the opponents of the invasion conceded that the elections was good for the Iraqi people.... These elections were held against a backdrop of mounting terror and violence, which made the high turnout even more astonishing.... The violence by insurgents is set to continue. But Sunday's election turnout showed that Iraqis are determined to follow the path of democratization regardless of the violence. As interim PM Iyad Allawi said, Sunday's election was a 'victory over terror.'
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Optimism Of Post-Election Iraq"
Frantisek Sulc commented in the center right Lidove noviny (2/1): "Practically all the debates about present day Iraq fall along a left vs. right dividing line, and are fundamentally influenced by the position of the debater toward how the war was started. Herein lies the basic problem. To judge the current engagement and events in Iraq through the prism of the legitimacy of the war or a pro-American or anti-American (respectively pro- and anti-Bush) standpoint is nonsense.... For the Iraqis the elections are connected to great expectations. And if these are not at least partially fulfilled in the next few months, dangerous disillusionment will follow.... And finally, even after the elections, open political questions will remain. Especially where the Sunnis are concerned, many of whom boycotted these elections. It will be necessary to convince them that the new government will not exist at their expense. It is important for them to understand that only by participating in the political life of post Sadaam Iraq can they gain. Boycotts and armed attacks will not help them. This is connected with confidence building in the new Iraq and the suppression of traditional enmities.... Sunday's elections sent an important signal, but the second half-time will not last forever. Therefore it is necessary to act quickly.
DENMARK: "Impressive Start For Democratic Process"
Center-right Jyllands-Posten editorialized (2/1): "The positive result of the election indisputably legitimizes the action taken to oust Saddam Hussein, one of the worst dictators in the history of the world, from power. The left-wing has yet again been forced to eat humble pie. As long as anyone can remember, the left wing has got it wrong regarding the major issues. America's impressive vision of the future of Iraq has made a promising start."
"Denmark Must Consider Its Role In U.S.-Controlled Coalition"
Left-wing Information commented (2/1): "Danish soldiers were a part of the political process that was started with Sunday's election in Iraq. Hopefully, the election represents the first step on the road to the democratic development of Iraq. But, the situation could also worsen and as the result of this, the country could be thrust into civil war. We must remember that we are a part of the Coalition that is controlled totally by the U.S. As a small country, we have absolutely no say in the decision-making process, including how long the foreign occupation will last. This reality is what should influence our discussions about Danish presence in Iraq. The issue of Iraq should not become intermingled with the Danish election."
"Iraq Election Could Help Bridge Transatlantic Divide"
Independent Børsen commented (2/1): "A possible side-effect of the Iraqi election could also be that a window of opportunity is opened for reconciliation between the U.S. and Europe."
FINLAND: "Participation In Iraqi Elections Sufficient Despite Terrorism"
Leading national daily, centrist Helsingin Sanomat editorialized (2/1): "U.S. President George W. Bush immediately greeted the results of the elections as ‘a voice of freedom’ and as received by the Iraqi people as ‘an enormous success.’ He certainly was not completely wrong. Even the sharpest critics of the president ought to avoid the temptation of belittling the achievement only because it is also a political victory for the White House. Yet Iraq’s course toward peace and a democratic system is anything but free from difficulties.... All the Shiites and Kurds who voted are most likely not convinced democrats. Not all of them are friends of the United States. A high turnout does not guarantee a conciliatory attitude of either group.... Not all the Sunni Arabs opposing the election deserve to be regarded as 'fascists' as the American media has quite too easily started to call them. The occupying power is tempted to divide the Iraqis sharply into foes and friends, which in terms of the future months is a very short-sighted approach. Unless a majority of them can be made supporters of the constitutional reform, the country will hardly be appeased.... Even then it will not be enough that the parties agree on the text of the law. They will also have to respect the agreements in concrete policies. Only then can a coalition government be formed with the power to attack violent movements and erode the silent support such movements enjoy."
GREECE: "They Defied The Terrorists"
Foreign news editor Amalia Negreponti wrote in top-circulation center-left pro-opposition Ta Nea (1/31): “Millions of Iraqis rushed to the ballots, thus pushing the terrorists of al-Qaida’s deputy commander Al Zarqawi to the margin.”
Leftist pro-opposition Eleftherotypia editorialized (1/31): “As soon as the ballots closed, the American president rushed to state that the elections in Iraq were extremely successful, as Iraqis ‘rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists.’ The success, as well as the climate of freedom became obvious from the photos published by Eleftherotypia in its front page. A masked armed guard votes, casting an open ballot into the box. Even the most malicious will be convinced that the secrecy of the vote is secured by the mask.... Iraq comes out of the elections divided and bleeding, with its future uncertain, since Iraqis were not allowed to decide by themselves, without the presence of the foreign forces that pushed their country to hell.”
HUNGARY: "A Small Success"
Liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap editorialized (1/31): “One cannot undo the war in Iraq. And if Iraq has an imperfect but elected government, carrying on work on the constitution, that is progress.... In this situation, there is only one obligation for the world: to help. That is what those must do who are still there, as well as those who have already pulled out of Iraq. If possible, under UN colors (that would be a real strong message); if that is not possible, as NATO forces, training police and soldiers. Personnel will have to guard the next election, the one after the next, and perhaps even the one after that. Maybe, as time passes, there will be no need for them.”
Columnist Endre Aczel wrote in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (1/31): “Yes, the victory belongs to the Americans. To President Bush, if you please.... Of this test of strength, the Americans and their allies came out victorious, and it will have its influence on European politics as well.... The Sunni elite will probably be replaced by an amorphous creation that is going to have a difficult task. This Sunni elite operated a fundamentally secular system that the Americans, deep down, would like to keep. For Bush, there is no worse future prospect than an Iranian-type Shia theocracy taking over in Iraq. Although Ayatollah al-Sistani ’s views are pre-Khomeini, i.e., he would keep priests away from politics, they have become so deeply involved in the election game that I have my doubts about the possibility of keeping them under control. That is what is going to be at stake in the next war.”
IRELAND: "Time To Engage With Iraq"
The center-left Irish Times remarked (2/1): “Politics has therefore been reasserted by these elections, however flawed they were by severe security constraints and deep-seated administrative failings by the interim government and the occupation authorities. This will raise popular expectations for an improvement in political and socio-economic conditions and everyday security, as well as fueling demands for much greater Iraqi control over immediate events and a perspective for full sovereignty over Iraq's future. Disillusionment will surely follow if progress is not made on meeting these objectives over coming months. Most of those who voted were clear about one thing: the desire to regain control over their own political destiny.... Iraqis must now decide on the political shape of their state, whether Islamist or secular, federal or centralized. They must find ways to hold open participation in government and constitutionalisation to their Sunni compatriots. And they must be satisfied that progress in both these major domestic tasks is reciprocated by the readiness of the United States and its coalition partners to agree a calendar for withdrawal and the restoration of full Iraqi sovereignty. These are gargantuan tasks for such a young and inexperienced polity. Their achievement requires reserves of wisdom and goodwill which have been sorely missing over the last 22 months. But there are some grounds to believe they could be marshaled now, if only to avoid a much more dangerous civil conflict.”
"Courage Of The Voters"
The center-right Irish Independent editorialized (1/31): “For all the flaws, the violence that surrounded it, the troubles that still lie ahead, the Iraqi election had its noble and inspiring aspects.... The insurgency of which the bombers formed part had escalated the violence for months, hoping to prevent the election from taking place. Its failure is a victory for the Shia majority.... But Shia domination, if that is brought about by the election result and the subsequent political horse-trading, will not guarantee human rights and stability. The Sunnis cannot be excluded, and if it proves the case that most of them boycotted the poll a great cloud will hang over the legitimacy of the election as a whole.... At the time of writing the exact turnout in the Sunni heartland is uncertain, but it is sadly clear that it was very low, perhaps disastrously low. There will be a strong temptation to cast the blame on the U.S. government.... Yet even opponents of the war and doubters of American strategy must concede U.S. sincerity on a fundamental issue. The Bush administration promised an election, and delivered an election. Moreover, it overcame its initial misgivings about the likelihood of a Shia majority taking power. The poll might have been rigged; it was not. Now the question will not be U.S. good faith but U.S.political skill. Once the results are known, the Americans will have to help Ali al-Sistani and the other leaders to devise a just and equal constitution and a form of administration that will offer fairness to all the people of Iraq.... For the moment, Mr. Bush has every right to savor a success. Yesterday was a good day for him, and for those brave Iraqis who voted..”
LUXEMBOURG: "Beating The Terrorists On Points"
Staff writer Jakub Adamowicz wrote in socialist Tageblatt (1/31): “[The high election turnout] is proof that fanatical terrorists were not capable of inciting the population to revolt against U.S. troops. Despite the commotion involving torture and crude occupation, Iraqis made it clear that they share the objective set by the U.S. occupying forces, which is democratizing the country in the medium term.”
NETHERLANDS: "The New Iraq"
Left-of-center Trouw editorialized (1/31): “The Saddam regime is now definitely over. The Sunni absence does not affect the legitimacy of the outcome; the terrorists of Al-Zarqawi are not legitimate. Now that the Netherlands will withdraw its troops, we should consider other ways of fully supporting the new Iraq.”
Conservative De Telegraaf noted (1/31): “We can be cautiously optimistic about the process of democratization. Still, a new Constitution needs to be written and a further split up between Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites needs to be prevented. But these first free elections were a big step towards an autonomous, democratic society.”
NORWAY: "Bloody Election"
The independent newspaper VG commented (1/31): “Even though rebel forces threatened to kill anybody participating in the election and encouraged the voters to boycott and sabotage, the majority of Iraqis chose to defy the threats. They entered the polling stations risking their lives.... This is a huge victory for the democratic forces in Iraq. The voters demonstrated clearly that they now want a free, democratic Iraq, and that they want an end to the violence and the destructive rebel groups who ravage the country. The election might not change the situation overnight, but we can hope that the first free election in more than 50 years is a first step toward a new Iraq.... No matter what, it will be a hard and long-lasting job, but yesterday’s election provided hope that the Iraqis now will take advantage of this chance to give the country a new future.”
"A Kind Of Progress For Iraq?"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten stated (1/31): “In the best case scenario yesterday’s election in Iraq and in the Iraqi exile societies is a first step of a very long and painful process in the direction of a democratic administration. In the worst case scenario it will contribute to highly unwanted consequences, which we may already glimpse the tendencies of: instead of weakening the appeal of terrorism, the presence and actions of the Western forces in Iraq may actually have contributed to strengthening it. It is conceivable that the occupation, and not least the reports of torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, may be exploited to recruit new warriors from societies that would normally have remained calm. There is also a certain risk that Iraq, which was never a naturally formed state, will be divided into three regions: the Shia Muslims, where the majority voted yesterday, the Sunni Muslims, who to a much larger degree stayed out of the polling stations, and the Kurds in the north, who have fought in vain for their independence for at least three generations. After the election the picture of Iraq is maybe not quite as negative as the pessimists predicted. But the road ahead is dangerous and unclear, and it is long.”
POLAND: "Iraq Closer To Democracy"
Jerzy Haszczynski observed in centrist Rzeczpospolita (1/31): “Everything indicates that Iraq has taken the first step toward normalcy. The Iraqis have now begun to assume responsibility for their own state. Which does not mean that peace will come to reign there overnight, or that troops from other countries will not be needed.... The most important question now is what will result from the elections, which were conducted in a fledgling democracy, in the presence of Americans troops on one hand; and under the threat of terrorist attacks on the other.”
"The Elections Are Over, We No Longer Need Americans"
Robert Stefanicki opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (1/31): “Contrary to what Bush predicted, the ‘great moment in Iraq’s history’ did not happen on Sunday. Only the Shiites and Kurds voted. There was almost no election campaign, or foreign observers. The legitimacy of a parliament and government chosen in such elections will be questioned.... A way for the government to legitimize itself might be to demand that the Americans leave Iraq.”
PORTUGAL: "A Lesson For The World"
Influential moderate-left Público editorialized (1/31): “Millions of Iraqis voted because they felt that they could choose and they couldn’t lose this opportunity.... And that is the power of democracy...[which] generated the huge surprise of the heavy recourse to the ballot boxes that no specialist, no official, and above all, no journalist, risked predicting. That surprise will give greater legitimacy and authority necessary to the government to realize the enormous tasks which confront it--which are not small.... These tasks are immense and still traverse an extremely difficult path--but a path which, following the extraordinary lesson of courage that the common Iraqis showed to the world, we know will be followed with the support of millions. That was why they risked their lives and went to vote.”
Foreign policy analyst Ileana Cornea commented in independent Ziua (1/31): “A great Sunday for the Iraqis.... The important thing is that people are voting freely. Along with this we can include the American armed supervision, the fact that for three days the country will be like an island, without the possibility of communicating with the rest of the world, with road blocks, and at every step the threat of an insurgent machine gun or a car-bomb.”
SLOVAKIA: "Allergic Reaction To Iraq Democracy"
Columnist Andrej Matisak commented in Narodna Obroda (2/1): “There is no definite opinion about whether the war in Iraq initiated by the USA is in conflict with international law or not. The U.S.A. made many mistakes, and the innocent suffered for them. But without the American invasion, the election would be only an unrealistic vision. If we accept its result, we should also accept this logical fact. The change of any regime brings also negative consequences. The old structure is down and the new one is not yet built. Slovakia knows this very well. The price for freedom in Iraq is high. It’s a life in the shadow of suicide attacks by those who are allergic to democracy. The election brought hope that this allergic reaction will perish with the attackers.”
SLOVENIA: "Temporary Break"
Ales Gaube commented in left-of-center independent Dnevnik (1/31): "The...presidential election in Afghanistan last year was a pearl of democracy in comparison with the elections in Iraq. In America's...adventure, the elections...are the first step in the process of gradual withdrawal from Iraq.... The Europeans, who have been reluctant so far, will help with military instructors in the spirit of transatlantic partnership.... The elections have offered the necessary political facade to justify to their domestic audiences a greater involvement in Iraq. Yesterday's election is not a part of the solution; rather has it become an introduction to numerous internal and regional problems. According to the worst scenario, a civil war may break out.... People who had been deprived of their national identity...voted according to their religious and ethnic [belonging].... The [Sunni] uprising will continue. The maneuvering space for post-election reconciliation is very limited.... Spotlights will be directed toward al-Sistani again rather than toward the new prime minister."
SPAIN: "Response In The Ballot Boxes"
Left-of-center El País had this to say (1/31): "It is certain that these elections do not resolve the core of the crisis. However, they do encourage the Iraqis to convince themselves that they are the ones that have to find the political solution to their drama. But, formulas must be developed that include the Sunni community in the negotiations for the future constitution, in spite what will probably be their scare representation in the National Assembly. This will be the principal, and perhaps the only, way to end the insurgency, which is being encouraged in large part by some of the Sunni political and religious leaders who are frustrated at having lost the control that they had during Saddam's regime."
"The Iraqi's Courage"
Conservative ABC argued (1/31): "Yesterday was an evident defeat for the terrorists.... If the Shiite leaders maintain the prudence that they have shown until now, and they wisely maintain themselves away from the temptation to impose an Iranian formula, if the Kurds don't give into their impulse of declaring themselves independent from their convenient stability in the north of the country, then maybe the Sunni minority will end understanding that the peace and stability can be built among all, and that the best path towards U.S. withdrawal is through elections."
"Iraq, Votes And Bombs"
Centrist La Vanguardia commented (1/31): "Iraq has much at stake, but so does the Bush administration. This election is a trial by fire for the purpose of promoting democracy in the Middle East, starting from Iraq.... That is why the satisfaction with which President George W. Bush welcomed the development of the electoral day that he called a success yesterday is understandable.... Electoral results will perhaps give way to a long and intense process of negotiation among the four ideological blocks of the Iraqi map.... No group will be able to do as it pleases, despite the advantage the Shiites will get. And the Bush administration will consider the electoral results as a success if they lead to a balance that allows the four blocks to share power in the stage for the drafting of a constitution. The Iraqi vote has also a broader interpretation than the strictly national one. The election held yesterday may feed the imagination of the Arab street.... If the fact that the Iraqis have gone to the polls in a multiparty election is called historic by Bush, the arrival of the Shiites to power in Iraq, a key country in the Arab world, is also historic."
"The Iraqis Overcome Fear But Face Other Risks"
Independent El Mundo concluded (1/31): "Given the level of violence and uncertainty, [the possibility of] the imposition in Iraq of an Islamic regime comparable with the one in Iran, nor a radicalization of Kurdish independence, a sure trigger of conflict with Turkey cannot be discarded. One of the fundamental characteristics that distinguish democracy from dictatorial regimes is the protection of minorities. This will be the way to measure the real reach of the democratization of Iraq. Whether it is about the minorities inside the different ethnic groups, or the Sunnis themselves. The contribution of the latter is essential."
SWEDEN: "A Showcase For Democracy"
Conservative Svenska Dagbladet opined (1/31): "Although the final election results are not clear, the loser can be seen in the election for a provisional Parliament in Iraq, which was a fight between those wanting to vote and those who--with the use of violence--wanted to check democracy. The perpetrators of violence were defeated.... The election in Iraq is also of great importance beyond its borders. Despite all the shortcomings, it was a display window for democracy. It will now be a legitimate question for the Syrians to ask why the Iraqis in Syria are the only ones who can vote for various alternatives. Political developments in Palestine will bring about the same crucial question with regards to democracy in the Arab world. Iraq and Palestine may now become guiding stars in this regard, but no one should doubt that, even in the best of worlds, the path there will be full of bloody setbacks.”
"They Stood Up To Terror"
South Sweden’s independent, liberal Malmo-based Sydsvenskan opined (1/31): “It now remains to be seen if the election will become a turning point. There are many dark clouds. If few Sunni Muslims took part, the legitimacy of the election may be hurt. The hope is that the constitutional process, which has now begun, will give legitimacy to the new regime. Conditions will then improve to build the necessary public institutions in Iraq, which will make it possible for the allies to withdraw, and give the Iraqis the chance to really enjoy the democracy of which they had a foretaste last Sunday.”
TURKEY: "Cheers To Democracy"
Erdal Safak wrote in mass-appeal Sabah (1/31): “The U.S. administration followed through on the transition to democracy in Iraq. Now it is time to take heart that Iraqis have had their first taste of democracy. The participation rate in Shiite and Kurdish areas was high enough to draw an optimistic conclusion about the outcome.... It remains true that the Sunni areas did not enjoy such a high participation. It is also true that the violence in Iraq has not ended. But nothing is ever perfect at the beginning.”
"Historical Day In Iraq"
Yasemin Congar commented in mass-appeal Milliyet (1/31): “There will be some interesting developments in the post-election period. First of all, the low rate of participation in Sunni areas will create a new debate on how to keep a balanced administration in Baghdad.... It is also possible that PUK leader Jelal Talabani could become the new Iraq’s first president. It will be interesting to watch, if that happens, how Ankara will deal with it. Turkey wants northern Iraq to remain as an integral part of Iraq, yet at the same time feels uneasy about dealing with Kurds as representatives of the central authority. Washington’s focus is now on the future of the occupation, as the Bush administration has been hearing increasingly vocal calls for its withdrawal. There are two views on this issue. While supporters of a withdrawal plan believe it would help to end the violence, others argue that any sign of withdrawal at the current stage would be a strategic mistake.”
IRAQ: "Defeat Of The Suicide Bombers"
Ali Ibrahim argued in the Baghdad edition of London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat (2/1): "The message of the Iraqi voters, who surprised the world with their high participation and by challenging terrorism and violence, is a direct answer to those who claim that democracy is not suitable for some nations. The Iraqis have shown great courage by going to the ballot boxes.... The Iraqis who went to the polling centers were expressing the view of the silent majority--a majority that does not believe in violence. This majority wants to establish a peaceful and safe future and solve disputes through the political process, not through bombings, beheadings, and explosions.... The most important thing to point out is that the Iraqis were successful in their first step toward democracy. They have defeated the terrorist groups. Nonetheless, the path ahead is still scattered with mines and challenges, beginning with the drafting of the constitution and establishing a new government. All Iraqi groups must participate in the political process so that no one feels marginalized or tyrannized. The outcome of the election will affect terrorist operations.... The Iraqi people have challenged these militant groups by going to the ballot boxes. The Iraqis will establish a new government that nobody can claim is illegitimate. Yet, this will not guarantee that violence will be reduced or cease to exist. Only by continuing the political process and establishing Iraqi security forces will the new Iraq be able to defeat these groups which thrive under chaos and instability."
"A Triumph For All Iraqis"
Independent Az-Zaman editorialized (1/31): "The participation of Iraqis in the first honest democratic elections has exceeded all expectations. Voters challenged the security dangers, thereby confirming their support for the democratic process. This process expresses a unified willpower to defeat decades of totalitarianism and political suppression. The democratic process has given the terrorist groups a very good lesson in defeat.... This success represents a victory for all lists and every Iraqi citizen.... Everybody is a winner because they participated in the election in order to express their beliefs, determination, and willpower in support of the democratic process.... The election's results will make us seriously think about rearranging Iraq's foundation to one that is based on patriotism and stability. These pillars must be established according to reconciliation, partnership, and coexistence.... If the first political necessity for the Iraqi people was to hold an election and attain high levels of participation, then the second necessity must call for establishing quiet political alliances in light of this great experiment. This will lead to stabilizing Iraq and place the country on the path of becoming a fruitful land where decisions are made based on the willpower of the citizens.... Widespread participation will ensure that the constitution will be unanimously approved by the Iraqi people.... A difficult stage has been successfully accomplished.... This new era of freedom and salvation will allow Iraqis to build the country's future."
ISRAEL: "Smiling On The Way To The Ballot Box"
Arik Bachar wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/1): "What we saw on Monday in Iraq was the power of democracy. We saw people smiling broadly on the way to the ballot boxes--something that is reminiscent of the smile of a child whose parents allow him to cross a road for the first time without being escorted by an adult. The smile of a person who suddenly feels the joy and the distress of responsibility. I saw it a decade ago in South Africa, when the Blacks were allowed to vote for the first time in their lives.... The show of freedom, and the yearning to influence, which we saw this week in Iraq, must instill a bit of modesty into those who claim that there are human societies in the world for which freedom and democracy are less important than to us."
"For Iraqis, True Test Still Ahead"
Ofra Bengio wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/31): "It should be remembered that those 'free' elections are being held under the watchful eyes of no less than 30,000 troops; in the past, when the Western eyes disappeared, the entire democratic structure collapsed. Furthermore, the small turnout among Sunnis could push them even farther into the political margins, and cause them to make more radical moves in order to nip democracy in the bud. Finally, the true test of democratic development in the long term will be at two crossroads: when concrete power sharing begins, and after the pullout of the U.S. and its allies.... In spite of everything, no one disputes one fact: the historic makeover...is irreversible."
WEST BANK: "A Free Country And A Happy People"
Muhannad 'Abd al-Hamid noted in independent Al-Ayyam (2/1): "Once the balloting boxes were closed and before knowing the actual results of the elections, President Bush declared them a resounding success, followed by British PM Tony Blair who announced the Iraqis’ victory against terrorism. This is how the occupation governments decide and determine the results of elections, just as they decide and determine the outcome of war.... The U.S...presented a disgraceful example of democracy when it blatantly violated the UN Charter and insisted on military occupation and a destructive war and committed war crimes no less ugly than those of the oppressive regimes.... Is the hidden goal of the elections to legitimize the American occupation of Iraq and give the Iraqi government a touch of popular legitimacy that meets the strategic goals set by the American administration the night it occupied Iraq?.... President Bush did not mention a tentative date or a timetable for a total withdrawal from Iraq. If the American objective is to establish democracy on the ruins of the oppressive overthrown regime, the U.S. would not oppose the replacement of its troops with emergency international contingents that have the support of all Iraqis and contribute to the selection of a real democratic system that reunites and rebuilds a free Iraq with a civilized democratic style.”
"Birth Of A Democratic Ideal"
Jawad Bashiti commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/31): "We can’t prevent President Bush from announcing, a day before the majority of Iraqis decided to stay home [i.e., to boycott the elections], that history in Iraq and the Arab neighborhood, where there has been a drought of democracy, will change beginning January 30, 2005. One of [Bush’s] assistants in producing and marketing the so-called ‘Iraqi democratic ideal,’ State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, has transformed the ‘biggest flaw’ in the U.S.’s ‘democratic regime,’ which needs to be reformed quickly, into a virtue. He said that voter turnout...should not diminish the importance of the democratic elections.... Boucher should have explained to us why he viewed the Iraqis who did not vote, even though they were the majority of eligible voters, as a ‘voice without political and democratic significance’. Were Boucher honest about his democratic claims, he would not have ignored the fact that ‘voting by not voting’ is also considered voting and is much more significant politically and democratically than this ‘sectarian and tribal voting.’”
SAUDI ARABIA: "What Comes After Iraqi Elections?"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (2/1): "Regardless of the winner of the elections, January 30, 2005 remains an important turning point in Iraq’s history.... Although the elections were held in the midst of rapid events, it revealed the Iraqis’ eagerness for democracy.... The Iraqi people need their elected leaders now to put their promises into practice and restore their security, independence, freedom, and justice.... Iraqis voted to prove that their rejection of the occupation does not mean that they accept chaos. They attested that death threats would not intimidate them nor lessen their determination to apply democracy. Iraqis will require the elected Iraqi government to prove its loyalty for the national choice rather than the externally-imposed solution."
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (2/1): "There is common parameter between the elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestine. They all happened under occupation, during tense times, many groups boycotted them, and their results were already preset. However, if there is a winner it will be the American administration, which listed the election in its agenda for 'spreading democracy in the Middle East' project."
ALGERIA: "A Jump Into The Unknown"
Influential, French-language L’Expression commented (2/1): "The elections are just a waste of time. The election will probably finish but will not bring anything to the Iraqi people. The consequences will be very serious for this country, which will not escape the spiral of violence it is living and which risks causing unrest in the entire region. Finally, instead of democracy, Iraq is finding itself at the doors of chaos."
"Uncle Sam Against Uncle Saddam"
French-language small-circulation La Nouvelle Republique stated (2/1): "'Iraq is experiencing today its first free elections under occupation.’ It is not for nothing that this sentence, which has been repeated by hundreds of newspapers in the world, risks being one of the biggest political paradoxes of the modern era. Nevertheless, the powerful U.S. is able to manage this paradox with barely concealed effrontery by dressing the Iraqi crisis with a veil of terrorism to justify the extension of their military presence, which is rejected by both Shiites and Sunnis."
JORDAN: "Iraq After The Elections Is Not Iraq Before The Elections"
Semi-official, influential Al-Rai editorialized (1/31): "Iraq before January 30 is not Iraq prior to that date. The first to realize this change are the Iraqis themselves, who are now required to unite and to preserve the Arabism of their country, its unity and the coherence of their factions and their sects, and not be subject to either the will of foreigners and their designs and plans or the will of the terrorists and extremists, because neither of those parties wants what is best for Iraq and the Iraqi people. Iraq’s interest is known to the Iraqis themselves first and foremost and not to anyone else.”
Taher Udwan concluded in independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (1/31): “This description really does apply to the elections that took place in Iraq yesterday, except that one cannot discern which way the history of Iraq is going to move from now on.... ‘The spring of Baghdad’ this time is happening over a river of bloodshed. That is why one cannot determine whether this historic day is going to shake the foundations of the countries of the region, their security, stability and identity or shake the foundations of the American empire. The democratic lesson to be learned in Baghdad is that this could be the beginning of legitimate change, whatever this change may be, or it could be the beginning of convoluted resistance, ethnic or sectarian, against foreign armies that have come across the oceans and the borders.”
"The Iraqi Elections"
Rakan Majali noted in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (1/31): “The elections that America is promoting as being an Iraqi internal issue are a development subject to the interests of the American plan for hegemony over Iraq. Yet, one must acknowledge the fact that legislative parliamentary elections or presidential elections in the Arab world have also become subject to the interests of the ruling authority in all the Arab countries in the past few decades.... It remains to be seen if the legislative elections in Iraq effect change in Iraq, but it would only constitute a change in minor details unless genuine initiatives towards ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq arise. Other than that, the vote is nothing more than an attempt to beautify the image of the occupation.”
LEBANON: "Iraqi Elections: Violence Justifies The Democracy Of Occupation"
Talal Salman commented in Arab nationalist As-Safir (1/31): “There is nothing easier than contesting the elections that were held in Iraq yesterday under occupation.... There is nothing easier that mocking claims that the new elections will pave the way to a new Iraq...and will enable Iraqis to surpass the dangers of dividing Iraq...but, in all honesty, we should not underestimate the political victory that was achieved by the American occupation.... A tank has become an acceptable ballot box for a nation that had been deprived, for decades, from proving that it exists.... These elections will not change a lot in the reality in Iraq...however, it will continue to be viewed as a development of quality.... A dictator such as Saddam Hussein gave the American occupation a chance to look as if they offered Iraqis the opportunity to feel that they are citizens and have the right to choose their rulers.”
MOROCCO: "What Will Tomorrow Be Like?"
Ahmed Fadili observed in semi-official French-language Le Matin (2/1): "Since last Sunday, the entire world has hailed elections held that day in Iraq... For our part, we can only add our voices to this concert and congratulate the Iraqi people for their real show of good citizenship and lesson in courage, even as we admit that up to a few hours before the opening of the polls we still nurtured serious doubts and tenacious prejudices about the outcome, opportunities, consequences and even credibility of the vote. The outcome of events proved us wrong, and so much the better for the Iraqi people.... Let’s not forget that from the beginning it was George Bush's America that wanted these elections and, to a lesser degree, England and Tony Blair, all of whom found themselves up to their necks in the Iraqi cesspool.... These elections offered a fortunate opportunity to get out (of the cesspool) and they grabbed it.... Sunday, January 30th will remain on the records as a private “success” for the president of the U.S."
SYRIA: "A New Start"
Former Chief Editor Fouad Mardoud said in the government-owned English-language Syria Times (1/31): "Even high-ranking U.S. officials do not believe that this week's elections would bring security and stability to the country they occupy for the time being at least. And unless the Bush administration takes the case once again to the UN and withdraws its forces from there, this battle will continue destroying Iraq and endangers its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
UAE: "Wisdom Of The Vote"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today declared (2/1): "While Iraq counts its votes and the bodies, U.S. President George W. Bush has prematurely declared satisfaction with the polls. The 60 per cent voter turnout looks impressive.... But such numbers are deceptive because no credible democratic process is possible under foreign military occupation. Nevertheless the Iraqis have defiantly voted. Now Bush should show the wisdom to acknowledge that the election's 'resounding' success is not a vote for his policy. The balloting for the National Assembly was held amid violence and destruction.... The shadow of fear robbed the voting of its fairness and credibility.... It is, therefore, wrong...to gloat over the election as victory for democracy and the U.S. stance on spreading freedom. The voting sowed division.... It is encouraging that the dominant Shiite coalition of United Iraqi Alliance has pledged to work to bring the Sunnis on board. The communal rift and sectarian wounds should be healed and the Iraqi people should be allowed to decide their own fate without outside interference. They know the U.S. agenda for the region, which they oppose.... They neither tolerate the U.S. occupation nor do they approve of the insurgency.... It is now for Bush to show the wisdom to quickly end the occupation by handing over the powers to the Iraqi government and place the country under UN supervision.... The U.S. spin that the transition to an elected government is an approval of its policy has clearly backfired. The Iraqi perception is that the U.S. has lost the war."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Iraq’s Election Is An Essential Step"
The national conservative Australian declared (1/31): "Among the murders and mayhem of the past few days, the prospects for this weekend's election in Iraq are easily ignored. But the Islamic terrorists who promise to kill voters and the Sunni sectarians who are targeting leaders of the Shiite majority understand the damage the election will do to their cause. They know that once Iraq is governed by men and women whose mandate comes from the electorate, the chances of theocratic rule, or government by Saddam-style thug, are much reduced.... There is no reason to expect one election will end the crisis in Iraq. The reporters of despair are already explaining that the election is discredited, a victim of the U.S. presence and the inability of Iraqis to understand democracy. But such pundits offer no alternatives. For the U.S. and its few remaining allies to abandon Iraq now would consign the country to rule by the whip and the boot--and whether these are wielded by clerical or secular thugs can hardly matter much. That the interim government has worked hard to get the vote out, without knowing what the electors will do, is an infinite improvement on what Saddam Hussein provided and the terrorists promise.... A democratic Iraq is by no means assured, but even with all the violence, this weekend's election is a start.”
CHINA: "Iraqi Election Should Be Recorded In Guinness Book Of World Records"
Tu Longde commented in official popular Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao) (2/1): "The Iraqi Election Should Be Recorded in Guinness Book Of World Records for a variety of reasons. First, an occupying military proposed and coordinated the election. Second, the election was held under a critical threat security situation. Third, several significant Iraqi political factions were against elections going forward as scheduled--lack of participation by these factions certainly makes the results of the election incomplete. Fourth, the election lacked international monitoring, a major requirement to gain international credibility in any election. Fifth, the election used a political entity model--such a model does not completely and truthfully reflect the current Iraqi political situation.... These characteristics make the Iraq election of limited significance.”
"The Election Will End U.S. Occupation Of Iraq"
Jiang Xiaofeng asserted in official Communist Youth League-run China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (1/31): "Many Iraqi voters accept and support the election because they believe it will end foreign occupation of their country. The current Iraqi government is often criticized as a 'pro-U.S. puppet government.' Iraqis believe that the new government will be more representative and better-suited to deal with domestic issues.”
"Violence-Tarnished Polls Call For Ultimate Peace Solution"
Hu Xuan wrote in the official English-language China Daily (1/31): "The elections, as U.S. President George W. Bush's administration believes, will facilitate the proceeding of the U.S.-designed democratic process in Iraq, lend justification to its armed occupation of the country, and extricate itself from the Iraqi quagmire sooner. Nevertheless, the current situation is far from optimistic. There is no sign that Washington is capable of guaranteeing the development of the post-election Iraqi situation in the direction drawn by itself.... Disenfranchised and embittered, the Sunni community, which makes up 20 percent of the country's population, may grow even more restless when it sees victorious Shias and their Kurdish allies dominating the leadership. This will put the country at risk of a civil war and result in anti-U.S. forces gaining more support from the Iraqis.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Encouraging Signs On The Road To A New Iraq"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (1/31): "Sovereignty was handed over to an Iraqi government in June, but that did little to change perceptions inside and outside the country that Iraqis were still not in charge of their own future. Yesterday's election should help to change both the views and the reality. By midday in Iraq, the broad outlines of the election were already emerging. A respectable turnout was seen in Shi'ite-dominated and mixed Shi'ite-Sunni areas. Kurds were voting in high numbers, as expected. Insurgents made good on their threats to scar the elections with violence but voters were by and large not intimidated. By the afternoon the headline turnout figures looked high enough to lend the poll some legitimacy.... After the ballots are counted, of course, many of the long-standing challenges will remain.... A strong desire among Iraqis to see American and other international troops leave has to be balanced against the government's ability to provide security in their absence. Of equal concern are basic services--electricity, water, petrol supplies--and jobs. The promises of order and economic development that were made at the time of Saddam Hussein's removal 20 months ago and renewed in June have to be delivered.... It would be difficult to underestimate the hurdles standing in the way of developing a stable, democratic Iraq. But yesterday's high turnout, despite the threat of violence, bodes well for future progress."
JAPAN: "Will Of Iraqi People Must Be Carried Out"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (2/1): "The voter turnout in Sunday's transitional national assembly elections in Iraq is expected to exceed 60 percent. The satisfactory turnout will allow the transitional government to prove the legitimacy of the elections. Although we were opposed to the Iraq war and have criticized President Bush's policy on Iraq, we welcome the Iraqi people's strong desire for independence. Iraq will face a serious challenge in carrying out the will of its people. Shiites, expected to lead the new Iraqi government, must give rival Sunnis an opportunity to take part in the new administration. If the national assembly turns into a power struggle between the two groups, assembly members could fail to establish a constitution. Iraq could then face a nightmarish situation, with the possible outbreak of civil war.... The people of Iraq did not cast their vote in order to support the continued occupation by U.S. and UK forces. Bush should recognize the strong desire of the Iraqi people to restore public security and to end the occupation that made them cast ballots. In order to restore international cooperation, the Bush administration needs to review its Iraq policy and to study the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the postwar nation."
"Great First Step For Iraq"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri concluded (2/1): "The people of Iraq have taken their first step toward the democratization of their country. The voter turnout appears higher than expected, showing that the people of Iraq were not intimidated by terrorist threats. In addition to the U.S. and the UK, France and Germany, both of which opposed the Iraq war, have welcomed the success of the elections. However, Sunday's elections are only the first step. Many challenges lie ahead amid unstable security conditions. Sunnis may also question the legitimacy of the elections. The transitional government should ensure cooperation between Shiites and Sunnis by involving Sunnis in the political process."
"Drafting Constitution To Become Next National Agenda"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai stated (1/31): "With the completion of Iraq's national assembly election, the focus will be on who takes control of the transitional government. Sunnis, likely to become a political minority, will need to be incorporated into the political process in order to ensure stable political management. The election results will likely affect the drafting of a constitution, one of the most important items on the agenda for elected legislators. A Shiite policy platform has called for a specific departure date to be made on the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. However, if key government officials openly call for a U.S. pullout, Washington's aim to stabilize Iraq could be derailed."
"Deep Concern Over Possible Civil War"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (1/31): "It is clear that one election alone will not dispel centuries-old hatred and animosity between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. But, Sunday's elections might be the first step towards reconciliation and political dialogue between traditional rivals. Dialogue and reconciliation has been limited during the election campaign and the religious and ethnic divide has intensified, with the Sunnis effectively being left out of the political process.... We must not allow terrorists to derail the ongoing political process. We should keep in mind that less than 'perfect' elections are likely to damage the legitimacy of the political process. Questions still remain over whether sufficient efforts were made to ensure Sunni participation in the elections. There also continues to be serious concern over possible civil war in the post-election period."
INDONESIA: "The Future of Iraq"
Muslim-Intellectual Republika averred (2/1): "Just like in Afghanistan, the elections in Iraq--although participated in by its citizens directly--in fact, is only a formality. The U.S. and its allies will make all possible efforts and try every possible means to make their puppet figures win in the elections, starting from luring the people with a better life until threatening with weapons. To the U.S. and its allies, whether in Iraq or other countries, to implement democracy is not an important issue. Just look at U.S. allies in the Gulf; they are kingdoms or sultanates. In such systems, the state and its wealth are only an inheritance. People have little opportunity to take part in running the government.... Based on that, the future of Iraq, especially the matter of who will sit in the next Iraqi government, is clearly predictable. The U.S. and its allies have ‘sacrificed’ a lot, both in terms of funds and lives. Now, they want to take back what they have given, if possible more. And, this only could happen if the next Iraqi government is in the hands of the U.S. puppets.”
"Security Threats Reduce Participation In Iraqi Elections"
Leading independent Kompas commented (1/31): "Major disturbances to security have greatly decreased the quality of the elections in Iraq. The elections held 1/30 were far from the atmosphere of a feast...of democracy. The sense of spirit of casting a vote was also lacking. In general, the conditions were chaotic. Violence was widespread, especially in Baghdad and other major cities. In Fallujah, it was practically difficult to hold the election because of the menacing security threat.... Security threats constitute the biggest challenge in the Iraqi elections. It is such a difficult situation because the guerrillas and the militant groups are not only fighting against the U.S.-led coalition forces, but they are also trapped in a sectarian fight. There has been concern that conflict will continue after the elections. But many believe that the security situation in Iraq will gradually be restored after the foreign forces pull out.”
MALAYSIA: "Violence Plagues Elections In Iraq"
Government-influenced, Malay-language Berita Harian stated (1/31): "The actions of the insurgents to attack polling stations only cause setbacks and show that the elections have failed to quell the violence. This will cause the Iraqis to lose whatever ‘freedom’ they have. The Sunnis are now unhappy that their future as a minority group is undetermined. And worries that there will be a civil war between Sunni and Shia groups. Promises from U.S. President George W. Bush that the U.S. military will move out of Iraq, when the new Iraqi leadership has been chosen, are empty promises. It is quite clear that the newly elected representatives will be hand-picked by the U.S. and will still need U.S. protection. It is no wonder that ulamas and Arab activists criticized the Iraqi elections for being filled with irregularities and bringing a bad name to the democratic system."
NEW ZEALAND: "Iraqi Election Small Taste Of Democracy"
The leading center-left New Zealand Herald asserted (2/1): "Iraq's first free election in a half-century prompted an understandable euphoria. Shiites and Kurds, freed from generations of persecution, voted enthusiastically.... Early on, the Election Commission announced that 72 per cent of Iraqis had voted. When cooler heads prevailed, that figure was scaled back to a guesstimate of 60 per cent. Similar leavenings of sobriety will be required over the next few months if this brush with democracy is to prove other than a false dawn.... Also foreseen, unfortunately, was the poll's major shortcoming--the failure of Iraq's Sunni population to vote in significant numbers. On the ground, therefore, the election has changed little. The Sunnis, who have dominated Iraq for the past century, will continue to wage a battle for control through insurgency. This tactic will change only if some way is found to bring them into the new transitional Government.... Fighting in Iraq has become increasingly sectarian. Insurgents have been targeting not American forces but the Shiite-manned Army and police. The Shiites have so far declined to react, doubtless recognizing that this could have jeopardized the holding of the election, their ticket to control of the National Assembly. They are now being requested by the United States to bring Sunnis into parliamentary and Government bodies. That is asking much of the Shiites in terms of humility and maturity.... The Shiites and the Sunnis share one main objective--the wish to see the U.S. leave Iraq. Yet even that is unlikely to be the catalyst for a coming together.... In any event, the Sunni resistance is driving a wedge through Iraq, rather than uniting the country against the Americans.... Most Iraqis have enjoyed a taste, however contorted, of democracy. But the real, and far more difficult, job is just beginning."
PHILIPPINES: "Real Milestone"
An editorial in the top-circulation center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer read (2/1): "The final tally won't be complete for a few more days, but already it seems clear that millions of Iraqis--as many as eight million, out of the 14 million who registered--turned out to vote.... The voting did not come without cost. In too many cities, the threat of sudden death, through car bombs or mortar shells, was all too real.... But the violence may have emboldened ordinary Iraqis, rather than cowing them.... For the first time in modern Iraq's history, the Shiite majority will hold the reins of power; from all indications, they will win a majority of the transitional assembly.... For now, the Iraqi people have earned the right to celebrate a new day of freedom. Without the protection of ski masks or stolen explosives, they lined up for hours out in the open, for the chance to cast their ballot. In so doing, they not only gave the rest of the so-called ‘Arab street’ a powerful lesson in self-determination; they reminded themselves that the future was in their hands.”
The top-circulation center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer asked (1/31): "Regardless of what will finally happen in the polling centers of Iraq.... Bush will declare that, yes, democracy is truly on the march. If only it were that simple.... We pray that the vote would prove to be a true turning point in the Iraqi journey to democracy. But the reality is much more complicated, and violent, than what we would like to believe.... The decision to push through with the elections regardless of the deterioration in the security situation, however, was not made by the government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. It was the call of a White House desperate for a face-saving way out.... We support a democratic, unoccupied Iraq. If the Americans had made sure that the legislative elections would take place in security and enjoy the support of a majority, we would have sung Washington's praises. But the U.S. occupation of Iraq had a fatal flaw: the U.S. was not prepared to administer the country. The results include a country wracked by violence, with no real center of control, and an election struggling for legitimacy.... By rushing the vote, the White House will be able to claim a short-term victory. But the danger of a rushed election may very well be long-term: the erosion of the Iraqi people's confidence in democracy.”
"Momentum Of Democracy"
The moderate Philippine Star said (1/31): "It’s hard to tell which is worse: a voter turnout of 101 percent, with everyone voting for strongman Saddam Hussein, or an underwhelming turnout as bombings and grisly footage on the Internet of ‘pro-American’ Iraqis being beheaded scare away voters from polling centers.... You can’t export democracy through the barrel of a gun, Bush is repeatedly reminded by his critics. Those critics will find perverse pleasure in the failure of elections in Iraq.... And yet the world cannot ignore the voices of Iraqis yearning for an end to the terror, hatred and violence that are destroying their country. These people have to be the silent majority. If only for them, freedom-loving people should wish that the elections will be a big step on the road to democracy in Iraq.”
SINGAPORE: "Iraqis Won, Jihadists Lost"
The pro-government Straits Times contended (2/1): "By any measure, the election was a remarkable victory for the Iraqi people--and a signal defeat for jihadists, who had claimed that democracy was anti-Islamic. The sight of Iraqis lining up patiently to cast their ballots in the first free election they have had in more than 50 years, and the scenes of celebration in many parts of the country on election day, signaled a powerful rejection of extremism. For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis gave notice, clearly and unambiguously, that the insurgents did not represent them. The election was above all a test of wills - and the jihadists lost. This message is likely to resonate in the wider Muslim world. But this does not mean the jihadists have been defeated, or that Iraq is now stabilized. For one thing, an election does not in itself produce a democracy.... Iraq took a surprisingly big step towards normalcy on Sunday, certainly, but it faces many dauntingly high hurdles ahead."
SOUTH KOREA: "Iraqi Election Is Successful Enough"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (2/1): “The Iraqi election carries a special meaning because of the fact that the voter turnout of 60 percent was higher than many other countries. This demonstrates that even though the current situation is unstable, Iraqis have high hopes for building a democracy rather than seeing another Saddam Hussein type of regime. However, it is a bit too early to definitively say that the election was a ‘resounding success’ and an ‘historical achievement,’ as U.S. President George W. Bush called it.... What is more important is the internal management of the country. There are still insurgents who will not accept the election results and continue to terrorize people. The participation of the Sunnis, who boycotted the election, in governing of the country has to be urged as well.... This period will decide the fate of Iraq. Thus, the international community needs to actively support this election so that democracy can really set its roots.... For the ROK, which has deployed troops in Iraq, it is important to put in every effort so that Iraq can become a stable country as soon as possible. In order to achieve this goal and for democracy to also take hold in Iraq, countries, such as France that do not have troops deployed there, need to show support as well.”
"Fear Of Public Square"
Foreign news editor Kim Chang-hyuck asserted in independent Dong-a Ilbo (1/31): “Iraq cannot simply be compared with the ROK. However, the two countries are not greatly different, given that they are the venues on which the U.S. ‘tested’ its security interests and free democratic system. The free democracy planted by the U.S. military on this soil, albeit being ‘transplanted,’ remains well and alive despite the dictatorship and tyranny of the past.... There will be many difficult challenges lying in wait for Iraq. The country could possibly go through a civil war like the Korean War or it might fall under another oppression and tyranny. Nevertheless, the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, will sow the seeds of freedom and democracy as a dandelion blossom scatters its seeds.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "For Democracy"
The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer maintained (2/1): "The people of Iraq have displayed remarkable courage and resolution in turning up in large numbers to vote in the elections on Sunday ignoring threats to their lives.... Even if the claim of a nearly 60 per cent voter turnout, with 90 per cent or more in the Shia areas, by Iraq's Election Commission is over-optimistic, there can be no doubt that the figure was impressively high, which clearly indicates that the overwhelming majority of the country's population wants not terrorism and violence but peace, democracy and restoration of normal conditions.... One now hopes that the new Government will promptly get down to the task of drafting a new constitution for Iraq.... The very fact that a government could be cobbled together after the elections, and pressure now generated by the people's mandate for a democracy, holds out the hope that the TNA's labors will be fruitful.... For all this to actually happen, and to be meaningful in terms of peace, democracy and Iraq's reconstruction, it will be necessary to crush terrorism with a mailed fist. This in turn would require the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq until the job is done. Both Washington and the new Government that assumes office after Sunday's elections, should realize this. While there can be no doubt that American troops have to leave Iraq once the situation has stabilized, demands for their immediate withdrawal, whether made by a section of Democrats in the U.S. or by members of the TNA, will be equally irresponsible. For quite some time at least, Iraq's Government will lack both the manpower and firepower needed to crush terrorism. A hasty American withdrawal will only help terrorists."
"Another False Dawn"
The centrist Hindu opined (2/1): "The election in Iraq which was virtually under siege with curfew in the streets had an air of the surreal. With no campaigning or election manifestos, the voters were in the dark even about the identities of the candidates and the locations of their polling booths. The Sunnis, who constitute nearly one-fourth of the total population, had boycotted the polls. Welcome to George W. Bush's idea of free, fair and democratic elections in Iraq. Bush deserves credit for introducing to the world the concept of election at gunpoint. And he has the audacity to hail it.... There is, therefore, no need for Messrs Bush and Blair to gloat over these elections as vindication of their plans to spread democracy in Iraq. In any case, the inspired rhetoric of implanting Jeffersonian-style democracy in the Iraqi deserts was an afterthought floated when the WMD theory proved to be a myth and the attempt to persuade the Iraqis to accept as their leaders American stooges like Ahmed Chhalabi and Iyad Allawi, failed.... The neocons' plans for the invasion of Iraq was not prompted by any noble desire to usher in democracy and freedom. Their real goals were to take control of the world's second largest oil reserves, establish military bases and ensure the security of Israel.... No election held under a foreign military occupation resulting from an illegal war has any legitimacy under international law. Real freedom and democracy can prevail in Iraq only when the coalition forces will pull out and allow the Iraqis to decide their own destiny."
"It Means Much More For India"
An editorial in the centrist Indian Express read (1/31): "With Iraq's first general elections in over half a century set to create a constituent Assembly and a transitional government, India might have to consider a more active policy towards Baghdad. India knows that elections, even in the most troubled circumstances, have a way of changing the political dynamics on the ground. Whatever may be the final results, expected later this week, Sunday's elections are likely to breathe a new life into the process of reconciliation and political institution building in Iraq. A day before the polls, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India's stakes in Iraq as well as the desire to renew the engagement with its leaders. Singh's offer to assist in the normalization and reconstruction of Iraq is hinged on the hope that stability will return to the nation. Stability in Iraq, in turn, rests on many factors. Chiefly, the elections are certain to produce a government that for the first time in decades reflects the wishes of the majority in Iraq. But it might also fall short on representing all the sections of the Iraqi society. Delhi is aware of the danger of viewing Iraq through the prism of ethnic or religious differences.... India is confident that the enduring Iraqi national identity will transcend sectarian and ethnic differences. With change looming large, Singh should consider reaching out directly to the Iraqi leadership. He should dispatch newly named special envoy for West Asia, Chinmoy Gharekhan, to Iraq. As Shias become the dominant force in Iraq for the first time, Delhi would also want to leverage the connections that exist between Lucknow and Najaf."
PAKISTAN: "Iraqi Elections: Fear Of A Civil War”
Karachi-based, right-wing, pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat held (2/1): "The U.S. has at last succeeded in having elections of its liking in Iraq. Earlier, a puppet regime had been established in Afghanistan. The claim of sixty per cent balloting is highly exaggerated since only one per cent Iraqis living out of Iraq cast their votes despite the fact that they did not have fear of any kind hindering them to vote. However, as a result of these elections, U.S. is seen to be successful in creating a Sunni-Shiite rift in Iraq."
"Transition To Freedom?"
The centrist national English-language News commented (2/1): "That the Iraqi people turned out to vote, braving bombs and suicide attacks expresses their strong will to take control of their own destiny. Despite 44 killed and even more injured, a turnout of 57 percent from amongst the 14 million registered voters is indeed impressive. However, what is not clear is whether the vote will lead to the formation of a government that can claim legitimacy and is stable. Just a day after the election, fears are being expressed that the next government will predominantly be determined by the vote of the Shia community, as a majority of the population in the 'Sunni triangle' stayed away from polling. This may only exacerbate the ethnic and sectarian conflict in a country where the traditionally oppressed Shias will for the first time dominate the minority Sunnis. How maturely they use their new political role and power position is yet to be seen.... On the other hand, the occupying forces must allow the new Iraqi government a free hand in determining the future course for its people. The way Iraqi people have responded to elections establishes that they do not need any sermons on democracy and how it should be run. They must be allowed to sort out their differences themselves, without being influenced by outside forces. Iraq has already shown its willingness to transit to democracy. It is now essential for the international community to ensure its transition to freedom."
SOUTH AFRICA: "Brave Iraqis Defy Terrorists"
The liberal Star observed (2/1): "Iraqis defied terrorist bombs and skeptics to vote in unexpectedly high numbers.... It was a huge step towards democracy and independence.... But Iraq still has a long way to go.... The next step...must be for the Shi’ite majority to embrace the Sunnis--as well as the Kurds--in some sort of government of national unity. If not, civil war threatens.... The relative success of the poll has vindicated U.S. President George Bush’s claim to have struck a blow for Iraqi freedom. It has also raised the chances of the U.S. and allied troops being able to leave the country sooner rather than later. This is what everyone wants.... The poll also seems...to have disproved the rather patronizing view that the Middle East is not ready for democracy, the latter being an alien Western imposition. Freedom, the poll showed, is a universal value. Tyrants, in the Middle East and elsewhere, take note.”
The liberal Witness remarked (2/1): "Had things gone awry, it would have given powerful ammunition to the many critics of the efforts to democratize that troubled nation.... It was a success, too, despite widespread cynicism about the role of the U.S. and her allies in the region and in the face of threats to disrupt the process from people who have amply demonstrated the ruthlessness of their terrorism.... The terrorists failed to produce the intimidatory mayhem that they aimed at.... The election can fairly be interpreted as a substantial endorsement by the Iraqi people of the principle of a democratic settlement.... The illegitimacy of the deposed regime has been further exposed, as has the fact that its residual supporters and other anarchists exercise less power than they would have the world believe. This is not, however, a moment for triumphalism or vengefulness. The Shi’ite government that will presumably emerge must extend the hand of friendship to Sunnis and Kurds alike and work hard to broker a new, inclusive state of Iraq. The election has opened a new door, but the world beyond it is full of daunting challenges.”
KENYA: "What Now For Iraq?"
The independent left-of-center Nation opined (1/31): “The Bush administration views the election as a watershed for Iraq--the only chance it has to transform that country from a dictatorship to a democracy. It is thus determined to ensure the election succeeds. But whether the election succeeds or not may not be the biggest worry now. The more pertinent question is; will peace prevail in Iraq? The possibility that insurgents aimed to toppling the newly elected leaders will move into a higher gear after the election is frighteningly real. The U.S., having brought Iraq to where it is, must ensure that after the elections, it helps in solidifying the new leadership.”
NIGERIA: "Iraqi Elections: A Charade Amidst Violence"
The Abuja-based independent Daily Trust argued (1/31): "While we applaud the people of Iraq for their matchless courage, we note with concern that though the Iraqi authorities may have defied the atmosphere of protest violence to hold elections, there was no guarantee that the exercise would ease the searing tension in that country. We are particularly apprehensive because too many variables may well make the sacrifices Iraqis made yesterday less meaningful than they should be. Nevertheless...this newspaper extols the Iraqi people for their valor and wishes them the best possible outcome in this unbecoming enterprise."
TANZANIA: "America Should Stop Playing Power Politics In Iraq"
Independent, moderate, Kiswahili-language tabloid Mtanzania observed (2/1): “Two days ago, the people of Iraq participated in the first elections since the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein from power. The elections were overshadowed by violence in which some 25 people lost their lives. Many voters also stayed at home due to threats made by militias who have been fighting American and coalition troops. This shows that the elections will not bring about what America had expected: to put an end to the state of anxiety and violence that is prevalent in that country. The truth is that, there will be no peace in Iraq until America and its allies remove their troops from that country. It makes one sick to see that President George Bush’s is now admitting it was a mistake to invade Iraq in the first place. This comes after the country has been badly damaged. Worse still, America has no serious plans to return Iraq to normality, besides continuing to use force against Islamic militias it calls insurgents. At this rate, we do not think that peace will come to Iraq. America must sit down and listen to what the people of Iraq want. A way should be found to involve all groups equally in discussions that will bring peace to the country, instead of continuing to throw bombs and rockets at some groups under the pretext that they are insurgents. Promoting violence will not help in bringing peace to Iraq.”
"Iraq Has Lesson For Africa"
The English-language, privately-owned Citizen noted (2/1): "While the world will understandably be following the much-talked-about elections in Iraq with keen interest, the scenario will be even more significant for Africa. As is the case in many African countries, Iraq is home to communities harboring deep-rooted ethnic, religious and various other differences, resentments or even rivalries. We have, to name but few examples, the Hutu versus Tutsi in Central Africa and the Arabs versus Blacks in Sudan. There are lots of lessons we can learn from the Iraqi experience as they appoint their new cabinet, knock their legislative assembly into shape, and write their constitution. If Iraq is going to survive as a nation, it has to create a government in which the majority rules--in this case, that meaning the Shiites--but the minorities are guaranteed protection of their basic rights and enough of a voice to influence important decisions. The way Iraqis settle their differences and form a government of national unity to replace the forces of foreign occupation will be a vital lesson to the people of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania. We mention Tanzania because it has its own simmering conflicts--the Mainland versus the Isles in the Union and Zanzibar versus Pemba in the Isles.”
"Iraqi Elections Cannot End The Violence"
The privately owned tabloid African commented (1/31): "Yesterday, Iraqis went to the polls, billed by President George W. Bush and most of the western media as a landmark event.... People all over the world...are following the Iraqi polls not to see whether democracy can take roots in the unfortunate Arab country, but whether bloodletting will stop. Sure, Iraq may not have had democratically held elections for fifty years, but there are so many states in the region whose leaders have not even seen a ballot box. And what is Bush doing about these? Invade them and plant his Texas-style democracy that he thinks to be the best.... Bloodletting cannot stop in Iraq because the occupiers, led by Washington, have not yet stated categorically that they will leave the country they occupied by force and without justification. At the moment they are under pressure to draw up a timetable of troop withdrawal. And in order for the interim government to win some sort of legitimacy from among the Iraqis, they should support such withdrawal.... In normal circumstances, the U.S., the richest, and the most influential nation in the world could have said sorry very many months ago and saved a lot of innocent lives. That it is refusing to do so has turned Iraq into a hellhole by the emergence of terrorists who appear to have very little regard of their own lives, let alone of their opponents. We doubt whether western style democracy can stop this."
UGANDA: "USA Must Leave Iraq"
The state-owned New Vision asserted (2/1): "The people of Iraq voted on Sunday in their first multi-party election for over 50 years. The turnout was high despite the threat of terrorist violence. Holding the election was a huge achievement and will go a long way towards legitimizing the political process in Iraq. However there is still a long way to go. The process of political stabilization now depends on the perception of the occupying Coalition. Is the U.S. there to bring democracy to Iraq, as the White House claims, or does it have deeper hidden motives, as most Arabs believe? The Bush administration has indicated that it wants to hand over to a new Iraq government as soon as possible. Yet it is simultaneously budgeting for at least another two years in Iraq and building four big new military bases. The USA still wants a foothold in the Middle East and historically secular Iraq is apparently seen as the best choice for its long-term military bases. This will only discredit the attempt to restore political legitimacy in Iraq. The United States should scrap its plan for permanent military bases in Iraq and set out a precise time schedule for its pullout from Iraq within two years. Only then will Sunday’s elections lead to a national consensus and true democracy in Iraq."
CANADA: "Now Iraqis Must All Pull Together"
The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (Internet version, 2/1): "Dramatic as Sunday's vote was, it is only the first step on a long trek. Iraqis must now choose a president and prime minister, draft a constitution, and hold a referendum on it in October. Then they must elect a new National Assembly in December, when Iraqis can begin to rule themselves, under new rules, and ideally with full Sunni participation. At each step, Canada and other donors must work to strengthen the moderates. If the United States can afford to spend $1 billion a week on the occupation, the rest of the world can afford to help Iraq rebuild. Iraq's march from despotism to democracy may have been a forced one, but millions have signaled they yearn to be free. We must support their courage and idealism with all the help we can muster."
"Another Day In Baghdad"
Editorialist Mario Roy commented in the centrist, French-language La Presse (1/31): "Against all hope, the first, sort of, free elections to which the Iraqis were invited did not result in the bloodbath that was expected.... And [the elections] were marked by a voting turnout much higher than expectations, around 60 percent...not much lower than the turnout in the old democracies where no one is threatened by a rocket launcher or a fanatic with a belt of explosives.... The simple fact of going to vote was in itself a strong statement of principle.... There is a good chance that those who voted are viscerally hostile to the Americans. But [they were] more hostile still to the maintenance of a permanent state of emergency that only generates mayhem and unhappiness.... There remain details that are not insignificant.... More than any other, the 'American problem' needs to be resolved. For now 'Yankee' corresponds to the definition that is usually given of the police: a necessary evil. But that cannot go on. The way Baghdad and Washington reach an agreement, taking into account their respective interests, to establish a calendar to withdraw the coalition troops will say as much about the real state of the nation than yesterday's election. For the Iraqi on the street, that is probably the first item on the agenda."
"Ink And Blood"
Columnist Richard Hétu wrote in the centrist, French-language La Presse (1/31): "Iraqis...showed courage and conviction by going to vote en masse.... They may not have known all the candidates on the 223 lists, but they wanted to dip their finger in that ink. January 30 will perhaps be added to the dates without rosy tomorrows for Iraq. There was the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, the end of 'hostilities' on May 1, 2003, the capture of Saddam on December 14, 2003, and the transfer of power to the interim government on June 28, 2004. None of these dates permitted Iraqis to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. But one would have to have a heart of stone not to wish for it.... The goal of yesterday's election was to elect a national Parliament of 275 seats to write the country's constitution. Between blood and ink, the choice is easy unless one still believes that Bush is worse than Saddam."
ARGENTINA: "One Vote For Normality"
International analyst Claudio Uriarte observed in left-of-center Pagina 12 (1/31: "Regardless of the fact that the local winners of Iraqi elections are unknown yet, general winners are already known--the U.S. and the UK, the occupying forces, which bet on establishing a more or less legitimate Iraqi government and have received a high turnout, which in any event surpassed all expectations.... The people voted for normality, against violence, war and tyranny.... While the election was far from perfect, it is another achievement of George W. Bush's risky bet on democratizing the Arab world in the aftermath of the January 9 Palestinian elections. Regardless of the fact that Shiite won elections...the transparency of the process...suggests that it is the new Iraq that could destabilize Iran and not the other way round. For the same reason, the election has removed the stigma of illegitimate repression from occupying forces, and it will empower the elected National Assembly to request any military support it may need to eliminate insurgency.... The atmosphere of celebration in the administrations of Washington and London is understandable, since elections pave the way for a relatively honorable military withdrawal.... Certainly, the people also voted against the occupation and in favor of having their own leaders, but that is a paradoxical victory of the occupation forces."
BRAZIL: "Point For Bush"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo maintained (2/1): “Last Sunday’s elections in Iraq were President George W. Bush’s political victory. Predictions that terrorism and resistance to the occupation would prevent Iraqis from voting and condemn the elections to obvious illegitimacy were not confirmed. Most voters participated in the elections and the electoral balance was a positive one.... This success does not make the U.S. military adventure less condemnable, but it unquestionably represents an important step forward in the attempt to stabilize Iraq. There are, however, many doubts and a series of obstacles to overcome.... There is no doubt that the elections were an auspicious fact. But there is a rough way ahead before the Bush administration can present to the world’s public opinion something close to a stable democracy in the Middle East.”
"Elections Of Courage"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo asserted (2/1): “In numbers that exceeded the most optimistic forecasts, the Iraqis participated last Sunday in their first truly free elections in 50 years.... It was a remarkable demonstration of courage and of faith in the superiority of the democratic regime over the authoritarian systems of government that Iraq has experienced.... The thesis that rather than respecting the political principle of voting, the Shiites decided to vote because they wanted to obtain a legitimate power that had previously been denied them, is absurd.... The elections were the best thing that has happened in Iraq since the invasion.... The Shiites, who have already stated that they do not want to ‘theocratize’ Iraq, must give a voice to the Sunnis.... Without the integration of the Sunnis, the insurgents will continue to recruit militants, the threat of a civil war will increase, the Iraqi federation will be unfeasible and the autocratic governments in other Arab nations will feel threatened--as if the disturbing example of free elections were not sufficient.”
"Bush, Iraq And Brazil"
Igor Gielow commented in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (1/31): “As predicted, the Iraqi elections were held amidst a turbulent climate. With the large voter turnout, all the Washington-inspired media will praise the arrival of democratic good manners to the barbarian desert. But there is good news. As with what happened in another electoral mimicry in an American protectorate, Afghanistan, it is good to see people who had never voted before standing in line to vote. The problem is that there is no completely legitimate representation in an unstable place. For many years, Iraq’s destiny will continue in U.S. hands, as incidentally is the case with most of the rest of the world. And what does Brazil have to do with this? There is something to fear in the movement Bush announced in his second inaugural speech.... Brazil has a crazed ally in Venezuela, a nation that is strategic for the U.S. due to its oil resources. There is a U.S. advanced military post in Colombia. Brazil has natural resources that tend to be important in the near future such as fresh water and biodiversity, but it has no deterrent element despite the fact that it has spoken loudly in international fora.... Brazil’s future is as uncertain as the Iraqi one. Since we are not the next in line maybe we will be luckier.”
"The Power Of The Ballot"
The independent Jornal do Brasil editorialized (1/31): “In spite of all the uncertainties as to the future, after the elections in Iraq, the population made it clear that they want the right to choose their future.... The message was sent as much to the U.S. military, the occupant that appointed itself the sponsor of the process, as to the bloody insurgents led by the Jordanian, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was responsible for threatening to execute those who showed up at the polls.... The voters used their voting ballots, powerful like a gun, and demonstrated unprecedented courage to the rest of the world. Future generations owe much to those who turned out in Bagda, Fallujah, Mosul.”
ECUADOR: "Iraqi Elections, A Crucial Step"
Quito’s centrist El Comercio observed (1/31): “The process initiated yesterday with the presence of the Iraqi people at the polls will not be susceptible to measurement in months, but rather in years; but both the U.S. and Iraq are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
VENEZUELA: "Elections Made In USA"
Pro-Government daily tabloid Diario VEA wrote (1/31): “The Bush administration organized elections in Iraq under its most absolute control. The 'electoral bodies' have been carefully selected by the American authorities. They are agents hired to organize and control some elections in which Washington’s candidates should win. At the same time, the U.S. troops have stepped up their war against the people of Iraq.... President Bush himself has intervened in the 'electoral campaign' almost everyday.... American officials worked on recruiting Iraqi citizens around the world in order to increase the number of 'voters.' In Iraq, even the American soldiers distribute the 'electoral propaganda' and give out juicy bribes in order to drum up support for the elections. However, despite all this effort on the part of the large occupying force, the ‘elections’ have been a failure. CNN, the American newswires and the press make believe that there has been 'a victory of freedom', which pleases Washington so much, when the U.S. administration has barely achieved a low forced or bribed turnout. The truth is that the facts show that the heroic war of the people of Iraq in defense of its sovereignty and independence will gain more and more strength until they can expel the last American soldier.”
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