This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," December 13, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Millions of Iraqis are set to head off to the polls, and some have already cast their votes for what's being called a historic election in that country. President Bush claims it will still be a remarkable event in the Arab world.

And how important is this vote? Let's ask Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute and former secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

So, Sen. Joe Biden and others, there are two or three others, are going off Tuesday night, heading to Iraq to be observers in this election. What do you think they're going to see?

LORNE CRANER, INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE: I think they're going to see a very, very heavy turnout in Iraq, even heavier than we saw last January when you had over 60 percent of the people voting. At the time, you'll remember, the Sunnis did not want to be part of the political process, and I think they've certainly realized since January they need to be part of the political process and not part of an insurgent or rebellion process.

GIBSON: Why has this changed?

CRANER: Why has it changed? Because they saw the political life of the country and the political institutions of the country being built without them, and they decided it was more important to be part of the political process than a fighting process.

GIBSON: What evidence do we have of that? How do we know that?

CRANER: How do we know that? Because the Sunni leaders after January, very soon after the January vote, realized their mistake. They got involved in the referendum vote in October and they are telling their people in mosques and elsewhere to be out voting for this election.

GIBSON: What are the signs of political activity that we would recognize as political activity now under way in Iraq?

CRANER: You're seeing a lot of campaign activity by the political parties ...

GIBSON: You mean real campaigning like we'd see?

CRANER: Yes, some of it is like we see. Some of it, frankly, is a little more advanced than we see, like text messaging.

But in the business I'm in of building democracy, these are the things you look for. You look for increasing sophistication by political parties, you look for greater efforts to get out the vote, you look for more women and youth to be involved in the political process, and you are seeing all of those things, and civil society getting more involved, to a much greater degree than you did in January.

And again, these are the building blocks of democracy that you look for when you want to see a country developing. You're seeing it in Iraq.

GIBSON: Why do we have this disconnect between signs of democracy and signs of civil peace? Why is there still an insurgency if so many Iraqis want to have their democracy?

CRANER: Well, because I think there are some Iraqis who don't and it doesn't take too many Iraqis to set off a car bomb. It takes a lot more Iraqis to be involved in the political process. But again, I think that's what you're beginning to see, the Sunnis getting involved in the process. And remember, this is a Sunni-based insurgency. So hopefully the insurgents are going to become — the terrorists are going to become more and more isolated.

GIBSON: How are we going to know if this vote is what we would call a success?

CRANER: Again, I think by seeing the turnout of people and seeing what happens after. Who gets elected, but more importantly, what do they do with power? Are they willing to bargain? That's what democracy is all about, it's give-and-take and compromise. Are they willing to bargain to build a new country? That's how I think you're going to know if it's a success.

GIBSON: A Sunni candidate campaigning Tuesday in, I'm trying to remember, I think it was, well, it was one of the northern Iraq towns, he was assassinated. Wouldn't you think this would have a severe dampening effect on Thursday's election?

CRANER: I think of course you're going to see violence in Iraq and this is exactly what you're seeing here. And I think it's a very, very sorry day when people can't campaign without getting assassinated. I would point out that happens in other countries that are developed democracies. So I don't think it's going to have a dampening effect on the elections. I think it's a very sorry thing and something we'd hoped not to see.

GIBSON: Lorne Craner, thanks very much.

CRANER: Thank you.

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