Students and faculty across the UR campus responded to the Iraqi elections.

“If the democratic experiment works in Iraq, it will provide inspiration and hope to Arabs through out the Middle East,” Political Science Professor Gerald Gamm said.

Iraq took the first step toward democratization with its national election held this past Sunday. Despite the danger of violent insurgents, over 200,000 Iraqis cast their votes with turnout rates over 90 percent in several regions.

“Although this is a very hopeful event for American foreign policy, it’s too early to tell,” Gamm said.

Iraqi’s were able to cast their votes not only within Iraq but also in several major cities in the United States and Canada as well as in 12 other countries.

Of these 14 nations, 94 percent of eligible voters came out to the polls.

“It is amazing to me how many people went out to vote,” freshman Kristina Doot said.

Unfortunately, 29 Iraqis lost their lives attempting to reach the polls on Sunday, despite the huge security precautions that were taken. Coalition security forces kept the locations of the polls unknown until hours before the elections in addition to having stiff security at the polls and elsewhere.

“I was deeply moved by Iraqi’s marching past barbed wire in Falluja to vote,” Professor of Political Science Bingham Powell said. “I was stunned by the images of the election.”

“It is sad to see people being killed for voicing their opinions, something we take for granted,” freshman Steve Goff said. Overall, the UR community is very positive and hopeful about the Iraqi elections.”I think it’s good that they did it,” ARAMARK employee Clarence Carter said.

“At the same time, I think there will be some issues. It has gone on like this for so long, but it is going to take a while,” he said. “I think we might have pushed the elections too early.”

Although it will take 10 days to tabulate the results, many politicians have already hailed the elections as a giant leap forward for Iraq and the Middle East, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

“The elections show that the US presence is making a difference and that we didn’t lose all those American troops and civilians for nothing,” Goff said.

Voters on Sunday selected a 275- member transitional congress as well as a president and two vice presidents, making up the presidential cabinet.

This presidential cabinet will then select a prime minister as well as justices to begin the foundation of a judiciary system.

Also elected Sunday were 18 provincial councils aimed at giving the three main ethnicities in Iraq a clear voice in government.

“While a three branch government may appear very American and democratic, you can not confuse democratic and American values,” Gamm said.

“Most of the criteria for a democratic election were not met,” Powell said.

“Citizens had no opportunity to view their options. If Sunnis think the new government lacks legitimacy they will support the insurgency,” he said.

“Iraq’s first experience with democratic voting will be far from perfect for a multitude of reasons, including fear and potential violence,” freshman Marc Klang said.

“But it is a necessary first step if Iraq is to ever make the transition to full self-government – and if American troops are to leave anytime soon,” he said.

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