|FNC's Dana Lewis|
Violence? All those threats from Al Qaeda to blow up everything and everyone? There were only 14 minor attacks on polling stations. Mostly drive by shootings that didn’t result in voting disruptions. A bomb in Mosul killed one man. A rocket in the Green Zone, which rattled the ground where I stood doing a live report for FOX News at 7 a.m. as the polls opened, injured three people. But over all? Peaceful.
And the election commission reported voting was so strong the polls were kept open for an extra hour to accommodate long lines. Even the Sunnis voted in remarkable numbers considering they boycotted the election in January.
But a few interesting things:
As I walked across the lawn to the convention center in Baghdad Friday morning, an Iraqi Sunni friend of mine, also a journalist, told me “did you hear that many polling places in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad were empty yesterday. People are fed up and chose not to vote.”
Late at night former Prime Minister, and secular Shiite candidate, Iyad Allawi was on Iraqi TV complaining vigorously of voter fraud and threatening to tell every diplomat in every embassy the vote was crooked.
There were no doubt some cheats, the question in the coming few weeks will be on what scale. Did the cheaters seriously alter the voting results?
But at a minimum, the allegations, not only from Allawi but other candidates too, will keep the vote counting going until at least the end of the month.
And then comes the more serious reality. No one will win. Not the Shiite religious majority in the South that claims at least 60% of Iraq’s population. And not the Sunnis, who did everything they could to vote in one block to steal power back in the new four-year government. And not the Kurds, who like the rest of Iraq, voted along ethnic lines to get their 20% share of parliamentary seats.
That means everyone who wanted to take power will have to share power. It means the different ethnic groups will have to come together and work as one, or, in the process of fighting for positions in government, risk tearing Iraq apart.
It’s not my opinion that Iraq could be on the brink of peace or a real all-out civil war. Even U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad understands the dangers are severe in the coming months of negotiation.
I asked Ambassador Khalilizad, "Do you worry if they're not successful [in negotiating a power sharing deal with all ethnic groups to form a government] the country will break apart?"
Khalilizad responded, “That is a danger. That’s a danger. That’s the responsibility that I talk about to the Iraqi people. That these are defining moments for them. The eyes of the world and the hopes and the aspirations of the Iraqi people are at stake here.”
That was what voter after voter spoke about Thursday — Hope for prosperity, hope for security. Even the mosque in central Ramadi broadcast the message, “If you go and vote God will bless you with a good life”.
Let’s hope the political leaders in Iraq emerge from this election with that spirit of hope too, otherwise the next chapter in Iraq could be it’s bloodiest so far.