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.

 

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Kerry heads to Saudi on Yemen peace push

Libya parliament rejects Sarraj’s unity government

Hajj stoning to be shortened after deadly stampede

Muslim women say swimsuit uproar is 'absurd'

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

Kurdish forces in Syria prime target for Turkey

Drone strike kills 2 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Iran yet to decide on OPEC limits

Iraq forces advance south of Mosul

Gaza animals leave 'world's worst' zoo

Hasakeh: key flashpoint for Syria regime, Kurds

British woman killed in Australian stabbing

Turkey launches operation to clear Syria border town from IS

Israel raids West Bank arms factories

Morocco posts fall in foreign tourist arrivals

Turkey cuts interest rates defying inflation jump

Syria regime, Kurds agree Hasakeh truce

Iran says it requested Russian strikes on Aleppo

Turkey shells IS positions in Syria

UN braces for massive flight from Mosul

Sudanese migrant killed in Calais clashes

Palestinian suspect in police killings beaten to death

Iraq forces launch push to retake town south of Mosul

UN aid chief warns of 'unparalleled' catastrophe in Aleppo

Prominent Morocco Islamists rapped over 'sex on beach'

Yemen army looks to break Taez siege amid deadly battles

Jordan to allow more Syrian children access to education

Tunisia parliament sets date for unity government vote

Iraq forces foil attack by teenage bomber

Israel launches 'dozens' of Gaza strikes

Russian stops using Iran airbase for raids on IS in Syria

Turkey says Syria border region must be 'cleansed' of IS jihadists

Turkey authorities scramble to identify child bomber

Libya forces seize more IS ground in Sirte

Sisi says Putin ready to revive Palestine/Israel talks

Jihadist asks Malians for 'forgiveness' for Timbuktu attacks

Iran criticize Russia’s ‘show off’ on airbase use

Ennahda 'has reservations' on Tunisia unity govt

In sharp reversal, Trump pitches softer line on immigration