Monday, January 31, 2005

It's morning again in Iraq: The elections were a resounding success. Nothing is perfect, of course. Terrorists killed 35 people -- which is a smaller number than the hundreds or so expected, but still tragic for those involved. And Sunnis did not participate in the election at a very high percentage rate, showing that the country is still fractured. Still, overall Iraq saw better than 60-percent voter turnout. That's more than the highly contentious American election last year, and nobody threatened to kill us if we voted. The real test of democracy in Iraq, of course, is yet to come. How will the Iraqis respond to the incoming government, and how will that government operate?

And that made me realized that there has been something missing in all the news coverage of Iraq. I have hardly seen any stories about who's running, who's likely to win, what politics they hold, and what that will mean for the future of the country. I understand that there are more than 100 political parties and thousands of candidates, but that doesn't mean the news can't feed us trend stories about who's running.

There have been snippets here and there. I know the Shiites will win a majority in the Parliament. I've heard talks that this may lead to a hard-line theological government that may not be completely friendly to America's interests. Popular leaders, like the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, may drastically change the political landscape in Iraq. But that's about it in terms of news coverage. These stories about a fluid and tense issue keep getting trumped by yet another headline about a suicide bomber.

I'm not one of those war supporters who believe the media shouldn't cover the terrorist attacks. Far from it. But from our vantagepoint, the stories seem a little repetitive, and there are a host of other issues that deserve prominent play. I'm a political nut (obviously), and I'd like to know what new politics is springing up in Iraq.

We should have a pretty good idea by now who's going to win and what their policies are on the presence of U.S. troops, on civil rights for Iraqis (which had been lacking until we got there), and on what type of government will be in place after we're long gone.

Yesterday's election was historic, terrific, and a huge step toward democratizing a volatile region. The truth is, there's a whole lot more at stake than the threat of a few suicide bombers. Let's keep our eyes on the ball.


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