CNN is reporting that turnout has been very high in the Iraqi elections – so high that voting has been extended another hour. Turnout among Iraq’s Sunni population is said to be much higher than before as Sunnis who failed to vote in January’s elections have decided to participate in the process again.
These results are a very encouraging sign – critical to a stable Iraq is public participation in the electoral process. The Iraqi people, especially Iraqi military and police, deserve a great deal of credit for taking their country to a shattered autocracy to a nascent democracy in less than 3 years. Iraq has had 3 successful and democratic elections, each one producing successively higher levels of turnout.
The Iraqis are showing the rest of the world, and especially the Arab world that Iraq can be a model for the rest of the region, living proof that Arabs can have democratic and free societies, and that the Arab world is not condemned to autocracy and corruption. They are proud of their accomplishments, and they have every right to be. Iraq still has a very long road ahead of it, but the results of today’s election represent another milestone on the road to a lasting Iraqi democracy and a vibrant Iraqi civil society.
UPDATE: There are estimates that 15+ million Iraqis went to the polls today – which if accurate would be nothing short of amazing.