(By Juan Cole)
Iraqis went to the polls on Wednesday in the first national parliamentary elections since US troops pulled out of the country completely (in late 2011). The results won’t be in for a while, but here are some early statistics:
1. Preliminary estimate of turnout: 60%
2. Number of people who died in attacks on polling stations: 14
3. Number of polling stations: 8,075
4. Number of polling booths: 48,852
5. Number of seats for which candidates are running: 328
6. Size of electorate: roughly 20 million
7. Population of Iraq: 31 million
8. Number of candidates running: 9039
9. Percentage of seats set aside for women: 25%
10. Number of women candidates for these 82 seats: 2,607
11. Active frontline personnel in security forces: 271,000
12. Number of people killed in attacks on voting booths during early voting by members of the armed forces in previous two days: 80
13. Number of top politicians claiming their party won, as of 3 hours after the closing of the vote: 2 (Nouri al-Maliki of the Da`wa-led State of Law coalition and Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, both Shiite religious parties)
14. Number of registered international observers: 1249
15. Number of registered Iraqi observers: 37,509
16. Number of registered foreign journalists covering the election: 278
17. Number of registered local journalists covering the elections: 1915
18. Iraqi petroleum production daily: roughly 3 million barrels/day
19. Saudi petroleum production daily: roughly 10 million barrels/ day
The numbers don’t support the idea that Iraq can’t hold these elections without US troops in country. The death toll in the 2010 election, which US soldiers provided security, was three times as large.
The numbers also don’t support the allegation that the high monthly death toll in political violence, about 800 a month, would make it impossible to have a proper election. (The death toll in Iraq is horrible, but it is smaller than that in Mexico in recent years).
Iraq is deeply divided among Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurdish Sunnis, and many Iraqis see the present prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, as having developed dictatorial tendencies and having increasingly deployed paramilitary Shiite gangs to assert himself. Hence the belief that there is a surge in popularity for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq of Ammar al-Hakim.
A big question is how long it will take to form a new government (last time it was 9 months). A further big question is how well Iran will do out of the new parliamentary coalition and the prime minister (it cannot be ruled out that al-Maliki will remain, and he has grown closer to Iran).
The new government is faced with many challenges, including a Syrian war on its threshold and a Saudi-Iranian Cold War that threatens Iraqi security.