So far, things seem to be going well, with very little violence reported. I haven’t seen any estimates of turnout yet. Iraq the Model reports:
Probably the worst thing today is the intense heat which was a little over 100f but that didnt stop the crowds from walking in the sun to the voting stations, I personally had to walk nearly 4 miles in total but its definitely worth the effort.
The presence of Iraqi army and police units is heavier than it was in January elections and I also noticed that no multinational forces were on the streets and the only sign for their presence was the helicopters that patrolled the skies.
Generally speaking, the process is going smoothly so far and this is encouraging because terrorists usually concentrate their attacks before noon so hopefully it will continue like this for the rest of the day.
We hope so, too.
UPDATE: The polls are closed, and the referendum seems to have come off better than anyone could have expected. There was almost no violence, and turnout was reportedly strong nearly everywhere.
This is a huge victory for the Iraqi people, and a stunning defeat for the terrorists and their allies. It appears that the military actions that coalition and Iraqi forces have carried out over the past two months have been remarkably successful in degrading the terrorists’ capabilities.
President Bush talked about the election in his radio address today. He also discussed the Zawahiri letter:
This weekends election is a critical step forward in Iraqs march toward democracy, and with each step the Iraqi people take, al Qaedas vision for the region becomes more remote. As Iraqis prepared for this election, the world learned of a letter written by a leading terrorist explaining why Iraq is the central front in their war on civilization. Al Qaedas number two leader, a man named Zawahiri, wrote to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. We intercepted this letter, and we have released it to the public. In it, Zawahiri lays out why al Qaeda views Iraq as ‘the place for the greatest battle’ of our day.
He says that establishing al Qaedas dominion over Iraq is the first step towards their larger goal of imposing Islamic radicalism across the broader Middle East. Zawahiri writes: ‘The jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals. The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq. The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.’
This letter shows that al Qaeda intends to make Iraq a terrorist haven and a staging ground for attacks against other nations, including the United States. The letter makes equally clear that the terrorists have a problem: Their campaign of murder and mayhem is turning the people against them. The letter warns Zarqawi that, ‘many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia.’ Even al Qaeda recognizes that with every random bombing and every funeral of a child, the Muslim world sees the terrorists for what they really are: murderers at war with the Iraqi people.
These terrorists are driven by an ideology that exploits Islam to serve a violent political vision: the establishment of a totalitarian empire that denies political and religious freedom. This is why the terrorists have fought to prevent and disrupt this weekend’s elections. They understand that the act of voting is a rejection of them and their distorted vision of Islam. Simply by coming out to vote, the Iraqi people have shown that they want to live in freedom, and they will not accept a return to tyranny and terror.
The terrorists know their only chance for success is to break our will and force us to retreat. The al Qaeda letter points to Vietnam as a model. Zawahiri says: ‘The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam, and how they ran and left their agents, is noteworthy.’ Al Qaeda believes that America can be made to run again. They are gravely mistaken. America will not run, and we will not forget our responsibilities.
In Iraq, we have brought down a murderous regime. We have stood by the Iraqi people through two elections, and we will stand by them until they have established a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. When we do, Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror and a partner for peace and moderation in the Muslim world. And because America stood firm in this important fight, our children and grandchildren will be safer and more secure.
President Bush can take great pride in this historic day.