DEMOCRACY IS BEAUTIFUL... SHIITES, KURDS WIN BIG
Clergy-backed Shiites and independence-minded Kurds swept to victory in Iraq's landmark elections, propelling to power the groups that suffered most under Saddam Hussein and forcing Sunni Arabs to the margins for the first time in modern history, according to final results released Sunday.
But the Shiites' 48 percent of the vote is far short of the two-thirds majority needed to control the 275-member National Assembly. The results threw immediate focus on Iraqi leaders' backdoor dealmaking to create a new coalition government — possibly in an alliance with the Kurds — and on efforts to lure Sunnis into the fold and away from a bloody insurgency.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the secular Shiite chosen by the United States to lead this country for the last eight turbulent months, fared poorly — his ticket finishing a distant third behind the religious Shiites and Kurds.
"This is a new birth for Iraq," election commission spokesman Farid Ayar said, announcing results of the Jan. 30 polling, the first free election in Iraq in more than 50 years and the first since Saddam fell. Iraqi voters "became a legend in their confrontation with terrorists." (full article)