Monday, December 12, 2005

Is The

Iraq is voting today and Iraqis are celebrating:

Iraqis are preparing to vote under tight security to elect a 275-member parliament that will run the country for the next four years. The election will be the first under the new constitution ratified in an Oct. 15 referendum and will complete the steps toward democratization following the ouster of Saddam Hussein's government.

Monday's Iraq speech is Bush's third, part of a campaign to win support for the mission, with most Americans saying in polls that they disapprove of his handling of the war. The final address in the series is planned for Wednesday in Washington.

In his first two speeches, Bush claimed new strength for both Iraq's troops and economy, while acknowledging difficulties caused by continuing violence. His speech Monday focused on the political progress and his determination to help Iraqis build institutions for a lasting democracy, aides said.

The president was arguing that, like the Americans who gathered in Philadelphia for the constitutional convention in 1787, Iraqis are showing their resolve to govern themselves.

Voter turnout will be an important benchmark for success in Iraq, particularly among the disaffected minority Sunni Arabs who have been the foundation of the insurgency. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, predicted Sunday that Sunnis would turn out in large numbers, win 40 to 55 seats in the assembly and become more involved in government.

"Politics will become more important, and our hope and expectation is that violence and use of the military means will become less important," Khalilzad told ABC's "This Week." "Although I do not anticipate that that change will take place very quickly. In the best of circumstances, it will take time and will change incrementally."