Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraqis Start Voting on Constitution, Defying Threats

Iraqis are voting today on a constitution that will establish a permanent government, a step the Bush administration says will help quell insurgent attacks and lead to the withdrawal of some U.S. troops.
As many as 15.6 million adults were registered to vote in Iraq's 18 provinces, according to electoral officials. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he expected a high turnout as voters defy threats by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.
At stake is the legitimacy of the government in the face of attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqis and soldiers, and a U.S. plan to withdraw some of its 140,000 troops early next year. Members of the Sunni Muslim minority, whose political dominance ended with the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, have vowed to defeat the charter. Officials including al-Jaafari say they're too few to prevail.
``Acceptance of the charter won't open any magic doors, but it would demonstrate that the government won't be moved by violence,'' Jonathan Lindley, head of the Middle East unit at the Royal Services Institute, a London-based research organization, said in an Oct. 7 interview. ``If it fails, it will be a setback.''
Polling stations, which opened at 7 a.m. local time, will close at 5 p.m., according to the Web site of the UN backed Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. People in hospitals and detention centers voted on Oct. 13, the commission said.....


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