Iraq’s Winning Vote

IRAQ’S FIRST postwar election four years ago was mostly a procedural victory: Iraqis sent a message to the world by turning out en masse despite intimidation from al-Qaeda and the pervasive threat of violence. Last weekend’s vote, which occurred during one of the calmest periods Iraq has experienced since the U.S. invasion, was a political triumph. Though results are still preliminary, they show that voters strongly rewarded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his forceful action against extremist militias and his secular nationalist agenda — and punished religious parties perceived as too sectarian or too close to Iran. The nonsectarian alliance of former prime minister Ayad Allawi also appears to have done well, and nationalist Sunnis gained influence in areas where they had lacked it because of previous election boycotts. In short, Iraq appears to have taken a step toward becoming the moderate Arab democracy that the Bush administration long hoped for.

The big winner in Iraq’s first elections four years ago was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite movement with its own militia that was backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and that maintained close links with Iran. The party favored splitting off Iraq’s Shiite provinces into a separate region, and some of its leaders were deeply involved in sectarian warfare against Sunnis. That record appears to have been decisively rejected in last weekend’s vo…

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