(with Isam Rashid)
BAGHDAD – The Dec. 15 election may have marked a turning point for the involvement of Sunnis in the new political process. But while many Sunnis turned out to vote, resistance groups have said they will continue fighting as long as the United States maintains a presence in Iraq.
Despite these comments by the mainly Sunni resistance, this election showed a very different response by Iraqi Sunnis than was exhibited in the previous January election. The Dec. 15 election was the most well attended of the three elections that have been held since the fall of Saddam’s regime.
In all 10.8 million people are said to have voted. Sunni participation followed a desire to participate in the political process in the new Iraq. Since January Sunnis have repeatedly complained of being denied a place in deciding the direction of Iraq’s affairs of state.
Previously the Sunnis boycotted the election, hoping that this would help invalidate it. The refusal of anti-occupation Shi’ites to follow suit detracted from the impact of the Sunni boycott.
"I did not go to the last election on 30 January, because the United States troops were bombing Fallujah," 36 year-old civil engineer Ahmed Ali told IPS. "We hoped the Shi’ites would do the same to send a message to the U.S. army and show them how we have strong solidarity, but they didn’t."
This led many Sunnis to become disenchanted with refusal as a strategic response to what they see as the illegitimacy of a government established and protected by the United States.
Ahmed and other Sunnis went to the polls in force. "Suddenly we found the Sunnis pushed out of the Iraqi government," Ahmed said. "Because of that, we decided to go to the new election, we voted for the Sunni list."
The Sunni parties worked hard to bring their constituents to the polls, hoping that there would not be a repeat of the January election where many Sunnis were kept out of the political process. The elections have been marred by hundreds of allegations of fraud, and currently the Electoral Commission overseeing the elections is investigating these claims.
Dr. Huda al-Nuaymi, a representative of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi National Dialogue party, told IPS that "we asked all Iraqi people to come and vote in this election. After the election happened we discovered there was a lot of fraud."
In the face of the fraud, many of the smaller opposition parties have joined together to oppose the results. "Because of the fraud, the Iraqi National Dialogue party joined with 35 other political blocs and issued a statement asking the Iraqi government to cancel the election and to have a new vote," Nuaymi said.
United Nations officials have said they think the election has been fair, but an international mission will travel to Iraq in order to verify the results.
The revelations of fraud and inconsistency have confirmed many Sunni Iraqis’ support for armed resistance. They say armed resistance is the only way to end the occupation.
"I did not believe the election would make the situation in Iraq better, because we are under occupation," said Alaa Adel, a 32-year-old guard at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad. "I’m sure only real resistance will force the occupation forces to end their occupation."
The coalition forces failed in Iraq because "there is no security, no petrol, no electricity, no water, no nothing," a resident said, asking not to be named. "Now they want to make a fake government to serve them and a fake democracy and run away as quickly as possible."
The resident said he did not vote. "After all that how can I go to this election. Of course I didn’t go, because if I went I would serve the occupation forces."
Alaa Adel said that only after the occupation has ended will Iraq have a fair election. "There is no democracy in Iraq under occupation. After that, we can make real election between real Iraqi people."