Violence fails to deter Iraqi voters
President Obama on Sunday praised Iraqis for successfully holding their third democratic election since U.S. forces invaded the country in 2003, as millions cast votes amid election day violence that killed at least 36 people.
“I have great respect for the millions of Iraqis who refused to be deterred by acts of violence, and who exercised their right to vote today,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. “Their participation demonstrates that the Iraqi people have chosen to shape their future through the political process.”
In Baghdad, Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Republican state representative from Texas who served on a bipartisan group of election monitors called the National Foundation of Women Legislators, said Iraqi voters braved bombings and gunfire to vote.
“The important thing about the election was the tenacity and the courage of Iraqi people in going out to vote, even though there were bomb blasts going off,” Ms. Riddle said in a telephone interview.
One Iraqi woman told Ms. Riddle that casting her ballot was a statement that she was not going to allow anyone to deny her the right to vote.
Voters lined up outside polling stations throughout Baghdad and were searched by security officers as they entered.
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Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission said voter turnout was estimated to be 50 percent or more in all but one of the 16 provinces for which statistics were available.
Ballots were being counted Sunday night, and final tallies not expected until March 18.
Diplomats have said Iraq is unlikely to be able to form a government for several months as no single voting bloc is likely to emerge dominant.
Abbas Hussein, his index finger coated in purple ink, signaling he had voted in Mansour, a Sunni district of Baghdad, told Agence France-Presse: “We don’t care about the bombs. The people will vote.”
Mr. Obama praised Iraqis for their courage.
“We mourn the tragic loss of life today and honor the courage and resilience of the Iraqi people who once again defied threats to advance their democracy,” he said.
Mr. Obama said hundreds of thousands of Iraqis served as poll station workers and as observers at nearly 50,000 voting booths across Iraq.
Iraqis in the U.S. voted in Arlington, Va.; Chicago; Dallas; Dearborn, Mich.; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; San Diego; and San Francisco.