Campus responds to outcome of Iraq election

By Kiran Sood

The results of the first Iraqi democratic election in over half a century has some students on campus debating the election’s legitimacy and the possibilities for Iraq’s future.

The election results, announced on Feb. 13, determined the 275 transitional national assembly members who will appoint a prime minister sometime in March. The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance won the largest portion of the vote with 48 percent of the 8.5 million votes cast, and the Kurds had the second largest portion with 26 percent.

President Bush hailed the elections as a positive step toward the goal of creating a stable democracy in the nation. But Helen Gibson, freshman in LAS, said the turnout – 58 percent – was lower than expected.

“There was initially a prediction for a huge voter turnout, but the actual number was quite low,” she said. “I don’t think the low turnout was because people did not feel the need to vote … People may have been afraid to vote,” Gibson said.

Sidra Javaid, freshman in engineering, agreed that fear of harm caused the lower voter turnout.

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“I believe the voter turnout was lower because a lot of people were afraid to show up because of the recent terrorist activities to prevent the elections,” she said.

Gibson said polling locations might also have had an effect on voter turnout. She said it seemed like areas of higher population turned out in greater numbers.

“Also, there might not have been a polling place close enough to them and they were not willing to make a long and dangerous journey to vote,” Gibson said. “The desert areas and the less populated areas didn’t have a very high turn out at all because they were unable to get to a polling area.”

Sara Tsai, freshman in LAS, said despite the low turnout, she viewed the elections as a positive step.

“The elections were definitely a good thing, no matter how many people turned out to vote,” Tsai said. “Iraq needs a stronger, more united government, because war has divided the entire nation.”

“I think that the elections are the only positive outcome of this unnecessary war the United States created in Iraq,” said Ritu Parikh, freshman in LAS. “Hopefully the elections will lead the way for the democratic progress of the nation.”

Javaid said some see the elections as a step toward Iraqi self-determination.

“There are some people who supported the elections because they believed it would help form a government and hope that country will now be free,” she said.

But Nancy Solorio, freshman in LAS, doubted the legitimacy of the voting process.

“Many people might have been unconfident about the voting process,” Solorio said. “They may have felt that their vote did not matter, or maybe they thought the actual process of voting had been corrupted. If I were an Iraqi citizen, I wouldn’t trust the higher authorities so much considering all that the average people have been through.”

Javaid said she supported the new government, but added that some still question the United States’ motives to invade Iraq in the first place and are skeptical of the legislature that was formed by the elections.

“They think that it’s a U.S. propaganda to set up a U.S. supported government to ensure a valuable resource oil for them since Iraq happens to sit on top of the world’s second largest oil reserve,” she said.