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Jan 31st, 2009

Iraq in Lockdown on Eve of Provincial Vote

Cars ordered off city streets, borders sealed, airports closed

Image: A Iraqi policeman stands outside a polling station
Security measures in Basra, Iraq, were reinforced with a curfew and a traffic ban in an attempt to ensure the elections run as smoothly as possible. (Photo credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images)

Jan. 30, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iraq imposed a nationwide security lockdown Friday before key regional elections with blanket measures not seen since the deadliest years of the insurgency, underscoring the high stakes for Iraqi leaders desperate to portray stability after nearly six years of conflict.

Although violence is sharply down — and with pre-election attacks relatively limited — authorities were unwilling to take any risks. They ordered cars off city streets, sealed borders and closed airports. …

Voting carried off without major attacks or charges of irregularities would give a critical boost for Iraqi authorities as the U.S. military hands over more responsibilities. But serious bloodshed or voting chaos could steal momentum from supporters of a fast-paced withdrawal of U.S. combat troops next year.

The election is also a possible dress rehearsal for bigger showdowns later this year when the U.S.-allied government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could face challenges for power. …


Traffic bans were ordered for Baghdad and other major cities. The closely monitored frontiers with Iran and Syria were among borders that were sealed. A nighttime curfew also was in place, apparently to block extremist groups that plant roadside bombs under cover of darkness. …

Polls are scheduled to open at 7 a.m. and close 10 hours later. Results are not expected for several days. But it could take weeks of dealmaking to determine which parties have gained control of key areas such as Baghdad, the Shiite-dominated south and former insurgent strongholds of western Anbar province. …

Slayings and bloodshed

Gunmen killed three candidates in attacks Thursday — slayings typical of recent weeks: gangland-style hits or small bombings but few large blasts with major casualties.

At the Baghdad funeral of one of the slain candidates, Omer Farooq al-Ani, mourners covered his coffin with an Iraqi flag and his campaign poster, which carried the slogan: “With us, your life has value.” …

Image: Iraq candidate killed
Mourners gather around the coffin of Omer Farooq al-Ani, a Sunni candidate for provincial council killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009. Gunmen apparently targeting political candidates staged attacks around Iraq, leaving at least three people dead on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)

Al-Maliki’s Dawa bloc has been facing off against Iraq’s largest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which has close ties to Iran but has also forged a rapport with Washington.

Power play

A strong showing by the Supreme Council would likely feed its ambitions to claim control of the government in national elections this year and to establish a self-governing region in the oil-rich Shiite south.

Al-Maliki and many other Iraqis believe that could lead to greater Iranian influence and stoke sectarian divisions. …

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said this year’s elections make it “very, very critical” for American troops to remain in Iraq in 2009. “We need some continuity,” he told The Associated Press at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That’s our key concern.” …


Related reports

Killing of Iraqi candidates highlights dangers

Major political forces in Iraqi elections

Facts about Saturday’s Iraqi election

Iraqi city of Mosul key electoral battlefield

First black Iraqi runs in elections



Bush legacy immortalized by a shoe (MSNBC, Jan. 29, 2009) – Oddball: A sofa-sized statue of a shoe with shrub planted in it found a home in Tikrit, Iraq, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. The artist was inspired by the reporter who threw both of his loafers at President Bush last month. (01:16)


1/31/09 Update


Controversial Iraqi sculpture to be removed (MSNBC, Jan. 31, 2009) — The director of an orphanage in Tikrit has been ordered to remove a sculpture paying tribute to the journalist who threw a pair of shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush. (00:20)


Related reports

Iraqi shoe-thrower to be released early (Aug. 29, 2009)

Iraqi shoe-thrower seeks Swiss asylum (Jan. 19, 2009)

Debate arises over Iraqi shoe thrower’s future (Jan. 19, 2009)

Guards said to throw party for shoe-thrower (Jan. 17, 2009; scroll down)

Iraq’s ex-speaker praises ‘brave’ shoe-hurler (Dec. 24, 2008; scroll down)

Brother: Torture drove shoe-hurler to apologize (Dec. 22, 2008)

Iraqi shoe-hurler asks for pardon (Dec. 19, 2008; scroll down)

Bush shoe-hurler sparks chaos in Iraq’s parliament (Dec. 17, 2008)

In Middle East, Arabs hail shoe-hurling journalist (Dec. 16, 2008)

Bush on farewell visit to Iraq dodges flying shoes (Dec. 15, 2008)

2 Responses to “Election Day in Iraq”
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