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Iraqi Provincial Elections

Iraqi elections: Elites to fight for power and oil. (RealNews.Net talks to Leila Fadel, McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau Chief. Dec 15) I really hope th

Iraqi elections: Elites to fight for power and oil.

(RealNews.Net talks to Leila Fadel, McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau Chief. Dec 15)

I really hope the Iraqi provincial elections today NEXT WEEK (I misread the link) go well - free, fair and non-violent. Both the vote itself and the way it is conducted will be important indicators of the way that nation is going, whether towards reconcilliation or towards entrenched factional splits and thus eventual outbreaks of violence again. There's already a huge fly in the ointment - elections in Kurdish Iraq won't happen today because of power-sharing turf fights. That such massive security measures are required just so that "the people" can exercise their democratic voice isn't a great sign either.

A credible election without significant violence would show that the security improvements of the past 18 months are taking hold. The outcome will also show which parties stand the best chance of success in parliamentary elections expected by the end of the year.

However, a deeply flawed election, marred by violence and allegations of widespread fraud, would cast doubt over Iraq's future and could influence President Barack Obama's decision on how fast to remove the 142,000 American troops.

Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to end America's role in the unpopular war and has ordered his national security team to prepare plans for a responsible withdrawal. U.S. officials warn that a hasty pullout could threaten Iraq's fragile security.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Pentagon is closely watching the elections because their outcome "will, I think, be a big indicator for 2009, which is a big year."

U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned extremists may try to disrupt Saturday's vote and are planning heightened security, including banning vehicles on election day and closing airports and land borders. But officials expect a strong turnout — possibly more than 70 percent of the 15 million eligible voters.

We're not going to know who the "winners" are for months, as deals and coalitions come and go. A lot of those fractures in Iraqi society are going to be stressed. By the end of it all, we'll know far more about how well "we broke it, we should fix it" is going.

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