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Low Voting Rate Risks Isolation for Sunni Iraqis

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Have a look to this article. What this writer might be missing, is the fact that Sunni Scholar association is not representing Sunni Iraqi. Most of Sunni Arab, Kurds, Turkaman had already participated. Just wait and have a look to the percetages of participants in Musol"Naynava" Saladeen, Diala and Falouja. They might be influencial in Adamia and some otjher parts of Anbar province. But to today most Iraqis looked at these zones as the nurturing farm for terrorists.

40% of candidates are Sunni, the Islamic party though announced his withdraw, but his slate name and candidates were there on the choices.. I personally thought of them as one hot canadidate.. No specific reason, but to praise their courage of stand off against the terrorists


Low Voting Rate Risks Isolation for Sunni IraqisBy DEXTER FILKINS


Published: February 3, 2005



AGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 2 - As poll workers tally the ballots from Sunday's election, Iraqi and Western officials say, it is increasingly clear that the country's once powerful Sunni minority largely boycotted the voting, confirming the group's political isolation.


While Shiites and Kurds, who make up more than 80 percent of the population, turned out to vote in great numbers, a Western diplomat said Monday, the turnout in Sunni areas appeared to be "quite low."




The thin turnout means the Sunnis, many of whom already feel deeply alienated from the American-backed enterprise here, could be vastly underrepresented in the national assembly. The 275-member parliament will oversee the drafting of a constitution, which is to be put before Iraqi voters later this year.


A lack of significant Sunni representation in drafting the constitution, Iraqi and American officials say, is likely to further embitter the group. And it could even lead to the failure of the constitution; under the rules drafted last year to guide the establishment of a new Iraqi state, a two-thirds "no" vote in three provinces would send the constitution down to defeat. The Sunnis are a majority in three provinces.


To head that off, Iraqi Shiite leaders, who will probably form a new government in the coming weeks, say they are determined to reach out to Sunnis, offering them senior posts and a role in writing the constitution.


Still, it is not clear that the Sunnis, who have dominated the Iraqi nation since its birth in 1920, would accept the offer.


At a news conference on Wednesday, the Association of Muslim Scholars, which says it represents some 3,000 Sunni mosques around the country, declared the elections illegitimate and said the mosques would not take part in writing the constitution. But the group seemed at the same time to be signaling a willingness to bargain.


"We are going to respect the choice of those who voted," a spokesman said, "and we will consider the new government - if all the parties participating in the political process agree on it - as a transitional government with limited powers."


Carlos Valenzuela, the chief United Nations official helping here with the election, said that the turnout in Sunni areas was probably higher than expected, but that expectations were so paltry that even a higher than expected turnout would have been low.


Iraqi leaders say that in some Sunni areas, like Samarra and the Baghdad district around Adamiya, very few Sunnis cast ballots at all.


"In this part of the city, there was no election," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political leader in Adamiya.


The apparent failure of Sunnis to vote in large number presents Iraqi and American officials with a difficult challenge: isolating the guerrilla insurgency and avoiding a possible civil war. Iraqi and American officials had hoped for a substantial Sunni turnout, and had rebuffed requests from Sunni political leaders that the election be delayed, to give them more time to persuade their people that voting was worthwhile.


The Association of Muslim Scholars has made a timetable for an American military withdrawal from Iraq the price for its participation in the political process. Many other Sunni political groups have done the same. Most Shiite leaders say they will not seek such a timetable. Indeed, the Shiites are sending signals that they intend to take a harder line against the Sunni-dominated insurgency.


Until now, the counterinsurgency campaign has been run largely by the American military. With a popular mandate, Shiite leaders say, they will be in a stronger position to influence the direction of the war.


"The new government wants to have radical changes in the leadership of Iraqi security forces," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a member of the Shiite coalition.


[Militants killed 12 Iraqi soldiers near the northern city of Kirkuk late on Wednesday, the Iraqi Army said Thursday, according to Reuters. Maj. Gen. Anwar Ameen said gunmen shot the soldiers after stopping their bus.]


A stepped-up campaign could derail the sort of reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis that many people here say is necessary to unify the country and avert a civil war.





In a similar vein, Shiite leaders have said once they take power, they intend to root out from the army and security services what they say are legions of former officials from Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Many of those former Baathists, Shiite leaders charge, are double agents, sabotaging the counterinsurgency. The presence of the former Baath Party officials is a phenomenon of "re-Baathification" that was presided over by the current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, in an attempt to give what are thought to be moderate members of Mr. Hussein's government a stake in the new order.





For example, "the Ministry of Interior has been infiltrated by former Baathists," Mr. Rubaie said. But a broad ouster seems certain to alienate many Sunnis. For their part, more moderate Sunni leaders say they are caught in a nearly impossible position: while they are being pressed to join in the democratic process, they risk losing credibility - even their lives.


Alaa Makky, a leader of the Islamic Party of Iraq, the largest Sunni party, said he and his fellow leaders want to take part in the democratic process. But, they say, the overwhelming majority of Sunnis do not.


The Islamic Party put a slate of candidates on the ballot, but then decided in December to withdraw from the election after the American assault on Falluja, which enraged many Sunnis. Another reason for the pullout: as the Islamic Party flirted with the idea of entering the elections, insurgents killed at least eight of its members, Mr. Makky said.


"We are the insurgents' No. 1 enemy," Mr. Makky said. "Even more than the Americans."


The pressure comes from both directions. In the run-up to the election, the American military detained about 200 party members on suspicion that they were linked to the insurgency. About 80 percent were innocent, Mr. Makky said.


He said the leaders of the Islamic Party have not yet decided whether to take part in drafting a constitution. He says they need time to bring Iraq's Sunnis around.


"We are trying to gain the confidence of the Sunni people, to make them better understand the democratic process," Mr. Makky said.


A brief tour through Adamiya, the large Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, showed how much work Mr. Makky and his colleagues have to do.


Abu Omar, a large white-haired man and the owner of an appliance repair shop, emerged from a pile of electrical parts to say Sunday's elections should never have been held.


"How do you hold an election when an entire city was obliterated a month ago?" Mr. Omar asked, referring to Falluja. "When they arrested a Sunni cleric inside his mosque, arrested Sunni party leaders?"


Mr. Omar let out a long sigh.


"I wish Saddam was here," he said. "None of this would have happened."



Iraqi employees of the Baghdad bureau of The New York Times contributed reporting for this article.

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