Turnout is an important measure of success for an election. To be credible and effective, a government needs the backing of a large number of its people. On March 7th, despite a concerted effort by violent insurgents to intimidate voters and scare them away from polling stations, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission announced that over 62 percent of eligible voters in Iraq turned out to cast their ballots.
The political scene in Iraq is multi-faceted and competition is fierce, with secular and religious parties and alliances of various size, as well as independent candidates, vying for voters' attention. To fill the 325 seats on the Council of Representatives, Iraqi voters chose candidates from among several thousand fielded by three hundred 6 political entities.
"By any measure, this was an important milestone in Iraqi history," said U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement congratulating the Iraqi people on a successful election. "In a strong turnout, millions of Iraqis exercised their right to vote, with enthusiasm and optimism.
"Today’s voting makes it clear that the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq," said President Obama.
"We are mindful, however, that today’s voting is the beginning and not the end of a long electoral and constitutional process. ... A parliament must be seated, leaders must be chosen, and a new government must be formed. All of these important steps will take time -- not weeks, but months.
In this process, the United States does not support particular candidates or coalitions. We support the right of the Iraqi people to choose their own leaders."
"A new Iraqi government will face important decisions about Iraq’s future. But as today’s voting demonstrates, the Iraqi people want disagreements to be debated and decided through a political process that provides security and prosperity for all Iraqis," said President Obama.
"On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the Iraqi people on their courage throughout this historic election," said Mr. Obama. "Today, in the face of violence from those who would only destroy, Iraqis took a step forward in the hard work of building up their country. The United States will continue to help them in that effort as we responsibly end this war, and support the Iraqi people as they take control of their future."