Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Historic Day for Iraq?

Good news from Iraq! Attacks on voters and polling stations have claimed 36 lives (so far), but the violence is less than expected. Much more important, turnout is higher than expected; the current official guesstimate is 60%. Unfortunately, Sunni turnout may not be very good. There are reports of a station where only 7 people voted in 7 hours, and another where the 15 people who cast their votes were the security forces assigned to protect the booth. Still, there are some encouraging signs; we'll probably do much better than Senator McCain's prediction of a 5% Sunni turnout.

So why the question-mark in the title? Partly because I'm an inveterate pessimist, but more because I read again today something we often forget: In fledgling democracies, the second elections are often more important than the first. Africa provides several examples of countries where the second post-colonial elections were never held; the winners of the first essentially became dictators. I don't seriously expect that to happen in Iraq, but like I said, I'm a pessimist.

Today, though, the world has reason to celebrate - to celebrate and honour the courage of millions of Iraqis who braved threats, bullets and bombs to help create a free Iraq.

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