Iraq’s first elections since fall of Saddam peaceful,no security breach

Iraqis held their most peaceful election since the fall of Saddam Hussein...

Written by Reuters | Baghdad | Published: February 1, 2009 11:39:01 pm

Iraqis held their most peaceful election since the fall of Saddam Hussein on Saturday,and voting for provincial councils ended without a single major attack reported anywhere in the country.

“No security breaches took place during the election. Things went as we planned and as we hoped,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askary said. “I consider it a great success,like a wedding.”

In the only reported incidents countrywide,mortar rounds landed in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit but no one was hurt,and Iraqi troops shot one person dead and wounded another after a quarrel in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum.

Iraqi forces are determined to show they can keep security in the country as US troops begin to withdraw.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is looking to use the election to build his own power base in the provinces before national polls later this year. Sunni Arab groups who boycotted the last provincial polls are hoping to win a share of local power. There was something of a holiday atmosphere in many parts of the country. In normally traffic-choked Baghdad,children took advantage of a ban on cars to play soccer in the streets.

“How can we not vote? All of us here have always complained about being oppressed and not having a leader who represented us. Now is our chance,” said Basra voter Abdul Hussein Nuri.

The last election took place amid an al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni insurgency and was followed by a surge in sectarian slaughter between once dominant Sunni Arabs and majority Shi’ite Muslims. That violence has dropped dramatically since 2007.

The 140,000 US troops in Iraq had patrols on the streets and helicopters in the sky but mostly kept a low profile.

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