- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Iraqis vote in first election since U.S. withdrawal
Question of the Day
BAGHDAD — Iraqis cast ballots in regional elections Saturday amid tight security, marking the country’s first vote since the U.S. military withdrawal and a key test of its stability.
The results will not directly affect the shape of Iraq’s national government. But the vote will be an important barometer of support for Iraq’s various political blocs heading into 2014 parliamentary elections, and the outcome could exacerbate the country’s already strained sectarian tensions.
Saturday’s vote will also test the Iraqi army and police, who face a reviving al-Qaida insurgency and are for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion securing an election on their own.
As in past elections, officials have ratcheted up security precautions to thwart attempts by insurgents to disrupt the vote.
Security cordons are set up around polling places, and only authorized vehicles are being allowed on the streets in major cities. Voters dipped an index finger in ink after casting ballots to ensure each person voted only once.
By early afternoon, the U.N. special representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, said the voting was going smoothly. He urged Iraqis to the polls, saying “the credibility of the elections depends also on the turnout.”
There were reports of scattered violence during the first several hours of voting, but no fatalities. Six people were reported wounded.
Mortar shells struck near voting centers in Baghdad and in the towns of Mahmoudiya, Latifiyah and Mussayib, south of the Iraqi capital, as well as in Samarra, to the north, according to police and hospital officials. A bomb went off near a polling center in the southern town of Jibala while stun grenades, which emit a bright flash and loud bang, were thrown at polling centers in the towns of Iskandariyah and Beiji.
Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi described the security situation as stable.
“The police and army are deployed everywhere to make sure the election day and polling stations are secured. We call upon all the people to go out and cast their ballots because it the best way to face terrorism,” he told state TV.
Militants have stepped up attacks in recent days. A wave of car bombings and other attacks Monday killed at least 55 and wounded more than 200. Attacks have continued throughout the week, including a suicide bombing at a packed cafe late Thursday that left 32 dead.
Iraqi state television showed government officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, casting their ballots at the Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
“Today’s message … is to tell the enemies of the political process that we will not retreat,” al-Maliki said after voting. “We will continue building the state of Iraq on the basis of democracy and free elections.”
Voting is taking place at more than 5,300 polling centers for members of provincial councils who will serve in 12 of Iraq’s 18 governorates. Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs are running for 378 positions.
Iraqis last elected members of provincial councils in January 2009.
TWT Video Picks
There's nothing centrist about the senior senator from Virginia
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- DeSean Jackson working on offensive cohesiveness with Redskins teammates
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq