The early going:
1101 Omar at Iraq the Model goes to vote:
Okay, we’re about to go to cast our votes now and then we’ll hopefully be posting updates but for now, the spokesman of the Iraqi electoral independent commission said in a press conference a few minutes ago that no sizable attacks were reported so far except for some gunfire in Al-Dora district near one voting office.Read it here.
Actually, Baghdad sounds so quiet so far.
No followup as of 5:00 ayem
AP reports the early going:
The night before was dark, but that didn't last. Power was restored just a few hours before the polls opened.
The polls opened at 7 a.m., just hours after insurgents sabotaged power lines in the northern part of the country, plunging the Iraqi capital into darkness and cutting off water supplies Electricity was restored before dawn.
Security was tight.
The capital was eerily quiet this morning. Iraqi soldiers and police ringed polling stations at schools, and driving was banned to stop suicide car bombings by Sunni-led insurgents trying to wreck the vote. Only a few citizens were seen walking to the schools, which were protected by concrete barriers and barbed wire.But the quiet didn't last for long. There were a couple of minor incidents.
Violence was reported soon after the polls opened. A roadside bomb exploded near a polling station in western Baghdad as it opened, injuring one policeman, officials said. U.S. troops exchanged fire with insurgents in Ramadi; it wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured. South of Basra, three armed men attacked an empty polling station at 3 a.m.; the three were arrested, police said.
John Manchester at the "Adventures of Chester" live-blogged the voting from about 11:00 pm to 4:00 ayem.
Bareknuckle News is reporting -- not much, but he does have a wonderful link to Ireland TV. Check it out.
ABC News reported:
In the western city of Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold, militants attacked Iraqi and U.S. forces; there was little sign of voting. Mortars fell on a Baghdad polling station but no one was hurt.
American troops in Humvees rattled down Baghdad streets, U.S. helicopters hovered in the skies, and Iraqi soldiers and police ringed polling stations at schools and other public buildings. Driving was banned to stop suicide car bombings by Sunni-led insurgents determined to wreck the vote.
Militants attacked three of the capital's 1,200 polling stations, wounding two policemen and a civilian, but Iraq was mostly peaceful. Nearly 450 people had been killed by Sunni-led insurgents in the 19 days before Saturday's vote, often by suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and drive-by shootings.
In the south, the heartland of Iraq's Shiite majority, lines formed at polling stations in Basra, Hillah and other major cities as people poured in to vote on a constitution Shiite leaders have strongly supported. The community's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has told followers they must vote "yes."
"Today, I came to vote because I am tired of terrorists, and I want the country to be safe again," said Zeinab Sahib, a 30-year-old mother of three, one of the first voters in the mainly Shiite Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada. "This constitution means unity and hope."
But turnout appeared low in the early hours in Sunni Arab towns in the center and west.
Ramadi, the capital of overwhelmingly Sunni Arab Anbar province, looked like a ghost town. At the hour polls opened, insurgents clashed with U.S. troops in the downtown streets.
Only about 20 people had voted in the Sunni town of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad, after three hours. Said Ahmad Fliha walked up the hill to the fortified polling station with the help of a relative.
"I'm 75 years old. Everything is finished for me. But I'm going to vote because I want a good future for my children," Fliha said.
The View from the Left
Aljazeera [here], citing a 2003 article by Leslie Gelb in the New York Times, argues that the vote is simply a way to divide the Iraqis and to incite a civil war. [This is a good example of how the lefty press becomes a tool of the adversary].
Confusion in Mosul
Not everything is going smoothly."Aunt Najima" of A Star From Mosul [consistently anti-American, anti-constitution] reports: [here]
People are searching for their voting centers in our neighborhood, being sent from place to another with no use.. Dad went to the mosque now, they'll gather and see, although they were already gathered in the street.
Our neighbour even called the Mofawadheya of the elections (Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq), 5 times, they couldn't help.. He's planning to call again!
We were planning to go together, so if we die, we'll all die.. No gunmen are in the streets, no explosions heard yet, seems we won't die, but won't vote.
Joe Lieberman, one of the few grownups left in Congress, writes in todays Washington Times:
For Iraqis, this constitutional referendum is a huge step toward building a true democracy. It is important to remember they would not have had this opportunity if U.S. and coalition forces had not overthrown Saddam Hussein. Nor could they now -- without our military presence -- provide the security needed to take advantage of this opportunity to govern themselves.
And we Americans have a continued national-security interest in helping the Iraqi people stabilize their country, and push back the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and who will do so again unless we stop them.
The Iraqi constitution is a symbol of the progress Iraq has made in achieving self-determination and, taken together with the January election results, is strong evidence a free and democratic Iraq is possible and deserves our support.
AP reports scattered harassment violence:
As voting began nationwide at 7 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded in the western area of Amiriyah near a school that had just opened its doors, wounding two policemen, said police Lt. Mohammed Kheyon. No voters were present, he said.
At 8:30 a.m., a small rocket exploded near a voting center in Azamiyah, northern Baghdad, slightly wounding one civilian, said police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.
In the nearby area of Kazemiyah, a mortar round fell near a polling station at 9 a.m., but it did not explode, said police Maj. Falah al-Mhamadawi.
Later, insurgents opened fire on a polling center in the Amil district in western Baghdad, and police fired back at random, accidentally wounding three civilians who were walking toward the school, said police Capt. Talib Thamir. He said the shooting was being investigated.
Violence also occurred in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad, and near the southern city of Basra, but no injuries were reported.
In Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, fighting erupted at about 7 a.m. between a small group of insurgents and U.S. troops patrolling the city's mostly empty streets, said police 1st. Lt. Mohammed Al-Obaidi.
South of Basra, three armed men attacked an empty polling station at 3 a.m. and were caught and arrested, said police Capt. Mushtaq Kadim.
So far, the insurgent efforts are pretty unimpressive. Lets hope it stays that way. AFP reports
that so far only four Iraqis were killed in vote attacks. [here]
AFP is reporting:
Voting in Iraq's referendum on a draft constitution is going well, with even volatile regions reporting that polling stations were up and running, according to a UN special envoy.
"Initial reports indicate that the turnout is fairly healthy and that this turnout tends to build up during the rest of the day," Ashraf Jehangir Qazi told AFP ....
Read it here.
AFP reports that if there are no major complications the results of the voting will be known within three days. [here]
Voting has been heavy in Shiite areas, light in Sunni. In part this is because in places like Mosul the location of polling places was not revealed in advance in order to thwart terrorist attacks. This left a lot of citizens wondering where to go. There have been sporadic violent incidents, but so far they have not been significant and are not impeding voting.
UPDATE FROM OMAR:
Omar at Iraq the Model reports that things are going pretty well:
Probably the worst thing today is the intense heat which was a little over 100f but that didn’t stop the crowds from walking in the sun to the voting stations, I personally had to walk nearly 4 miles in total but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The presence of Iraqi army and police units is heavier than it was in January elections and I also noticed that no multinational forces were on the streets and the only sign for their presence was the helicopters that patrolled the skies.
The turnout in our district looks quiet good and actually going to the voting office was a good opportunity to meet some friends I haven’t seen in months.
I met one friend on the way and when I asked him what would his vote be he said that he hasn’t decided yet “if I voted yes I would be approving some articles that I don’t agree with and if I voted no we would go back to where we started from…” he said and that was really refreshing because this guy who used to believe in conspiracy theories and stuff like “what America wants is what’s going to happen” now feels that his vote can make a difference.
Generally speaking, the process is going smoothly so far and this is encouraging because terrorists usually concentrate their attacks before noon so hopefully it will continue like this for the rest of the day.
Party on folks..., you've earned it!
Well, it's over!
Polls just closed a few minutes ago and the party has started. FOXNews shows crowds of people dancing in the street.
In unexpected calm, millions of Iraqis voted on Saturday in a referendum on a new constitution that is designed to reshape the country after Saddam Hussein but which many fear may tear it further apart.
Insurgents fought gunbattles with Iraqi and U.S. forces in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, but throughout the capital and much of the rest of the country, voting appeared to go smoothly and securely, with polls set to close at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT).
Read it here.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect to the entire day was the determined effort, launched by CNN and led by Christine Amanpour, to deny that anything positive had happened in Iraq. The relentness negativity was overwhelming, and frankly an insult to the Iraqi people. There was even an effort to portray celebratory gunfire as an emerging Sunni rebellion and time and again Christine reiterated her belief that civil war had already broken out.
Apparently the Iranian government, though, sees things differently. Obviously interpreting the vote as an expression of solidarity among Iraqis it is cautioning its operatives to soft-pedal their efforts to influence the course of events in Iraq for fear of alienating its citizenry. Read it here [hat tip Roger Simon].
And, of course, the NYT is up to its old tricks. Even the lefty Guardian admits that there was a "large" turnout of voters including "surprisingly high numbers of Sunnis" [here] , but the New York Times retreated from an early optimistic assessment to characterize the results as "mixed" and reluctantly admitted that the Sunni vote would probably be "insufficient to defeat" the new constitution. [here].
However the vote goes, and it appears from early accounts that the constitution will be accepted, the fact that violence was muted while millions flocked to the polling sites is an encouraging sign. Ballots not bullets reigned in Iraq today.