First Published: 2010-03-04

Iraq Sunnis set to vote en masse after 2005 boycott

Independent High Electoral Commission: 800,000 voters registered to vote in Iraq's Anbar.


Middle East Online

Electoral cards for Sheikh Aifan

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Sheikh Ayfan Saadoun al-Ayfan hopes to capitalise on radically increased Sunni turnout Sunday in Iraq's polls.

Standing in front of hundreds of supporters in the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, the 35-year-old urges his Sunni backers to cast their votes, a stark contrast to Iraq's last parliamentary elections in 2005 which Sunnis boycotted.

"The battle in parliament is between the Persians and a united Iraq, and my mission is to oppose them and reduce their numbers in parliament!" adds Ayfan, adorned in a blue dishdasha and red-and-white kefiyah, the traditional Arab male robe and headdress, with a pistol holstered under his armpit.

The minority community, which accounts for around a quarter of Iraq's population, finally lost control of power in 2003 after a US-led invasion after more than 80 years of Sunni dominance.

In the first nationwide parliamentary elections in the wake of the invasion, Sunnis largely boycotted the vote, because it was held under US occupation.

In all of Anbar, which lies west of the capital, only 3,500 people casted their ballots, mostly from voting booths in Baghdad.

That figure equates to less than one percent of the province's population.

"It was a massive error," Ayfan said as he left the meeting in Fallujah, under heavy armed security. "We should have participated -- we left a void and Sunday will be our revenge."

The sheikh is part of the Iraqi Unity Alliance (IUA), led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a secular Shiite, as well as Sunni tribal leaders who formed militias and turned against Al-Qaeda.

This time around, around 800,000 voters are registered to vote in Anbar, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission in Ramadi, the provincial capital.

Along with the IUA, which has 21 candidates vying for the 14 available seats available in Anbar, three other major coalitions are contesting the province, Iraq's western-most and biggest in total area.

The most popular of those three locally is the Iraqiya bloc of former prime minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite.

In marked difference to 2005, when all of the blocs contesting the election were explicitly confessional, two mostly-Shiite coalitions are attempting to win seats in Anbar -- the State of Law Alliance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the largely-religious conservative Iraqi National Alliance.

"I try to convince voters of our goal -- after the sectarian violence that we have all witnessed, our objective is to build a united country around our Iraqi identity," said Saad Fawzi Abu Risha, one of Maliki's candidates in Ramadi.

Hamid Farhan al-Haayis from the rival INA articulates similar goals.

"To get a seat at the table, we must bury Sunni sectarian projects," the former leader of an anti-Qaeda militia said.

In Samarra, another Sunni-dominated city in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, voters are determined to go to the polls.


Al-Nusra Front frees Lebanese hostages in swap deal

US over-reliance on Kurds in anti-ISIS fight carries many risks

Yemen President reshuffles cabinet ‘to smooth differences’ with PM

Tunisia shortens curfew imposed in capital

Despite huge global pressure, labour exploitation continues in Qatar

Syrians reach deal for exit of rebels from last Homs district

Israeli advert accused of racism

Shelling from Yemen kills another Saudi border guard

Qaeda warns Saudi Arabia against executing jihadists

Iran denies any links to alleged terror plot in Kenya

German cabinet approves assistance to fight ISIS

Britain looks poised to join Syria air strikes

Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'