|December 19, 2005|
Iraqis Head to Polls with Extraordinarily Low Violence; Sunni Turnout Higher Than Ever Before
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Congressional War on Terror Team today praised the millions of Iraqis who came out to vote to elect Members of Iraq’s new Parliament, called the “Council of Representatives.” Iraqi officials expect voter turnout to exceed 60 percent, an even higher turnout than in the last election, with Sunni participation dramatically higher than ever before. Initial reports tell of Iraqi enthusiasm, with many polling stations running out of ballots early on due to the high number of Iraqis pouring out to vote. The day is being described by The New York Times as “remarkable for the absence of large-scale violence.”
“Today’s election in Iraq marks a major milestone. Millions of Iraqis voted for the third time this year for freedom and democracy, defying terrorist threats to achieve that goal,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Chair of the War on Terror Team and a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “In addition to the Iraqi Security Forces increasingly taking over responsibility for their country’s security shows Iraqis are solidly on the road to establishing a free and democratic Iraq.”
“Today’s election begins the end of the military phase of our involvement with Iraq and begins the political stage, permanently. We are very proud of what’s going on in Iraq and today is another great accomplishment for the people of Iraq, the United States, and all of the Coalition Forces,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Vice-Chairman of the House Republican Conference.
“An historic day is setting on Iraq and its people and a historic era is dawning for the whole Middle East and the world. Today’s vote was a watershed moment in Iraq’s transition from a brutal dictatorship to a modern democracy and the Iraqi people will reap the benefits of their courageous stance,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a member of the International Relations Committee. “Today’s vote was a confirmation by the Iraqi people of our mission and of our goals of bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples around the globe. My step son and his fiancée are serving as Marines in Iraq and their devotion to their mission has never wavered or was never in doubt. Today, the Iraqi people have stated through the ballot box and not through violence that they too believe in what our men and women in uniform are doing. A great day indeed!”
“Today, the Iraqi people struck the most powerful blow to the terrorist and rejectionist elements of the Iraqi insurgency to date. By voting for their first permanent, democratically elected government, Iraqis have determined their own destiny and reached an important benchmark drawing the U.S. closer to victory in Iraq,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a member of the Armed Services Committee. “A democratic Iraq is absolutely essential to winning the global War on Terror and a free Iraq has the potential to gradually transform a region that has been adversely affected by tyranny and ideological corruption for decades. Today’s elections mark a major turning point in the war for freedom in Iraq and for the Iraqi people.”
“I commend the citizens of Iraq for standing tall against tyranny as a new and free government unfolds before their eyes,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a member of the International Relations Committee. “The people of Iraq boldly flocked to the polls to elect their leadership. They bravely spoke out against the past oppression of Saddam Hussein and his dynasty of dictatorship and spoke loudly for freedom and democracy.”
“Large numbers of Iraqi citizens have responded to the call for freedom, forgoing possible harm and violence for the chance to democratically elect new leadership. This is a historic occasion for the Iraqi people and yet another step in the country’s long-march to freedom and democracy,” said Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA), a strong supporter of the War on Terror.
“When millions of Iraqis courageously cast their ballots today, they demonstrated their enthusiasm about living in a society where each voice matters and each person has a stake in the future of their country,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), a member of the Armed Services and International Relations Committees. “Conducted by Iraqi Security Forces, the parliamentary elections were a political milestone and a clear symbol of the transfer of responsibility from U.S. and Coalition soldiers to Iraqi troops. Democracy in Iraq will ensure that Iraq does not become a permanent haven for terrorists, who ultimately seek to attack American families and citizens of all free nations.
“The Iraqi people should be congratulated and commended for their dedication to helping democracy grow in the nation. Despite the terrorist’s deadly attempts to derail freedom in Iraq, the democratic process is moving forward, and the goal of a free Iraq is that much closer because of these elections,” stated Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), a member of the Armed Services and International Relations Committees. “Fair, democratic and successful elections in Iraq are the best way to make sure our armed forces return home as soon as possible”
Last year there were only a handful of combat-ready Iraqi battalions. Today…
- 97 battalions of Iraqi Army soldiers are conducting security operations throughout the country.
- 8 battalions of special police are distributed around the country, providing a bridge between combat operations and civil police operations.
- The Iraqi Navy is guarding its coastline and protecting the offshore oil platforms.
- The Iraqi Air Force is moving supplies throughout the country, including some of the materials necessary for the upcoming elections.
- Iraqi Border Police are manning 170 border forts and 22 ports of entry.
- 75,000 Iraqi policemen are patrolling Iraqi cities. Another 5,700 are in training.
- At this moment, Iraqi and Coalition instructors are training:
- 2,700 Iraqi soldiers
- 500 Iraqi Army officer cadets
- 286 police officer cadets
- In the January ’05 elections, approximately 130,000 Iraqi Security Forces secured the polling sites. When the December 15, ’05 elections occur, 225,000 Iraqi Security Forces will secure the polling sites.
- Over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. These include some of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods.
- 30 bases have been handed over to the Iraqi government or military, including Saddam’s former palace in Tikrit. (Source: The Department of Defense)