Election Violence Tests Iraq's Fragile Democracy
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
NPR's Baghdad bureau chief Quil Lawrence is covering this story. He joins us on the line from the Iraqi capital. And Quil, now that the polling has ended, can you assess today's vote?
QUIL LAWRENCE: But then when we got out to the polls, we saw a steady turnout. Maybe it might've delayed people leaving their houses for an hour or two, but when I talked to people at the polling stations, they were defiant. They said, I'm going to come out regardless. I'm coming out here because of the explosions. The people who set these off can go to hell - is what one voter told me.
HANSEN: I understand you visited a Baghdad neighborhood earlier today. The attacks started earlier today. And it was the site of one of today's mortar attacks. What did you see?
LAWRENCE: I spoke to a police officer there, who said that he had left for a patrol before dawn with his entire family inside that building, asleep. And when he came back, they were all presumed dead. He said he had given up, and he didn't care about the election anymore. I spoke with another family member, someone who had lost two people inside the apartment building, and he said the opposite. He said that these people who did this were trying to destroy Iraq's election, and I'm voting anyway.
HANSEN: So the attacks, the effect on the turnout was people turned out anyway, and the mood was rather defiant at the polling stations, as you said. The election is being seen as a critical test of Iraq's young democracy. It's seven years after the U.S.-led invasion toppling Saddam Hussein. Now, voters have cast their ballots. Is it possible to explain what happens next?
LAWRENCE: Last time, it took the Iraqi political parties five months to hammer out a deal about who would become the prime minister. So this is hardly over. But we are finally expecting some concrete results so that party members can stop claiming the sway they have over the Iraqi population. And they'll actually put all their cards on the table, and then the real bargaining will begin.
HANSEN: The polls have closed in Iraq's parliamentary election today, and NPR's Quil Lawrence joined us on the line from Baghdad. Quil, thank you very much.
LAWRENCE: Thanks very much, Liane.
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