The first Iraqi election, which I gather was to elect delegates to their constitutional convention, went off better than expected, and plenty good enough to go forward. The number being bandied about for turnout nationwide is 60% – higher in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south, lower in the Sunni triangle. This would make it higher than in any US election in recent memory.
At first, I thought the practice of requiring voters to be indelibly marked with purple ink was a major error, as it would target them for terrorist retaliation. As it happened, though, the purple finger has become a symbol of defiance against the killers and hope for the future. The illusion that the various terrorist gangs that roam a few neighborhoods in Iraq have the power to influence the course of this nation may have taken a mortal wound. Terrorism in Iraq has always lacked a popular base to speak of, existing mostly on foreign lifelines from Iran, Syria, and the Western media, but now the isolation of the terrorists from the Iraqis has been vividly displayed.
We don’t know who won, of course, but the fact that the Iraqis turned out to elect delegates to a constitutional convention is an enormous positive. Now, I know some find it fashionable to affect a certain ennui toward such bourgeois artifacts as elections and written constitutions, but I regard elections as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a free society, and a written constitution as damn useful sand in the gears of the seemingly inevitable expansion of the state. The Iraqis have taken their first step down the road. Lets hope they make it all the way.