Bombs and purple fingers

Iraq remains a dangerous country, especially around election time. But its people refuse to be intimidated.

Despite the lobbing of hand grenades by Islamic terrorists, the firing of rockets and mortars and the bombing of one polling place Sunday, not to mention repeated violence in the days leading up to Sunday’s national election, an estimated 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote.

Many emerged from polling booths waving purple-stained fingers, the unabashed symbol of Iraqi democracy that stems from the first national election in 2005.

Some made a point of voting even though they lost loved ones in the pre-election violence. And turnout was high among Sunnis, and Kurds, not just the majority Shiites.

Furthermore, unlike five years ago, when only the names of parties were listed on the ballot to protect individual candidates from potential assassination, this year candidates campaigned enthusiastically. There were female and male candidates, and many who sought to cross the Sunni-Shiite divide, rather than seeking support only from those who shared their religious beliefs. Campaign posters were displayed prominently throughout the country.

The results of the voting remain undetermined, something that is unprecedented in and of itself. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law Coalition are expected to maintain the largest bloc of seats in the country’s Parliament. But he will likely have to form partnerships with other groups to forge a new government.

There’s no question, however, about the average Iraqi’s commitment to democracy.

In the United States, we often take our voting rights for granted. So it is inspiring to see people who have suffered greatly, first under Saddam Hussein, then during years of war and terrorism, who are willing to risk their very lives to participate in the most fundamental right and responsibility of a democratic society.


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