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.

 

An extraordinary meeting: Gulf ministers agree to end tension with Qatar

US releases $450 million Iranian frozen assets

‘Retaliation is life’ group vows to attack Egypt security forces

Gunmen storm South Sudan UN base killing 20

Malaysia activists: Obama you are not welcome here!

Kidnappers of Tunisian diplomat demand jailed Libyans release

Landmine blasts Tunisia soldier amid growing jihadist threat

Marzouki sets an 'example' by cutting salary by two-thirds

Rouhani: Iran does not intend to be aggressive but can defend itself

Turkey to Russia: We demand a gas price revision

For Massacre-scarred Algeria village, peace is worth more than wealth

An act of heroism: Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to shield army recruits

UK ‘determined to catch’ killer of Libya embassy policewoman

Experts: Washington demanded removal of Saudi spy chief

Future of Algeria on wheelchair

Palestinians rally for solidarity with Israel-held prisoners

Turkey may clinch bid to dismantle Italy’s wrecked ship

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Algerians casting their vote for president

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’