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Security, Sunni boycott to hamper Iraqi gover -

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Security, Sunni boycott to hamper Iraqi government

Reporter: Peter Cave

KERRY O'BRIEN: I'm joined now by the ABC's Foreign Affairs Editor, Peter Cave, in Baghdad. The
satellite delay is a little worse than usual because there are several legs involved in the link
back to Australia.

Peter, after all the build-up, the threats, the bloodshed and the official hype, it must be very
odd trying to sense the morning-after mood of a nation that's just had its first democratic
election in half a century. Most Iraqis voted freely for the first time, yet the place is still so
shut down that there's been no real opportunity for a national celebration.

PETER CAVE (ABC FOREIGN AFFAIRS EDITOR): Indeed the place is completely locked down. The election
isn't over yet. They've got to collect the ballot papers, something like 8 million of them, from
polling stations all over the country, thousands of polling stations. They've got to get them back
here to Baghdad and they've got to count them, and as Tracy said, that's probably going to take a
week to 10 days.

They're trying to estimate at the moment how successful the elections have been. Some estimates,
the estimate by the government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, is that 80 per cent of the population
voted. That's based on an Electoral Commission estimation, which had 72 per cent of the population
voting two hours before the polls closed.

They've since wound that back. They say that - they're guessing, because the votes haven't come in
yet - they're guessing that 8 million people have voted; 60 per cent of the population.

People can't drive around; they can't go in the streets. Most people are staying indoors. They're
waiting until this lockdown is over in a day or two's time, then they may think about celebrating.

KERRY O'BRIEN: This is a government for one year, isn't it, Peter? The new government will have two
fundamental tasks in that year, apart from simply keeping the place running, and that will be to
establish a new constitution and then to stage an election for longer-term government by the end of
the year. Now, how difficult is that process going to be?

PETER CAVE: Well, the first thing they've got to sort out is who's won the election. Each Iraqi
voter had a choice of 111 lists. The percentage of the vote that each list gets will be translated
into 275 parliamentary seats. After that, the parliament will elect a president and two
vice-presidents. They'll in turn choose a prime minister, who will choose a government.

The government will then set up a process, by about August, to draft a new constitution. About
mid-October, there'll be a referendum.

After that referendum, there'll be a new election and then we will have a truly
democratically-elected government, if everything works out. If it doesn't, it goes back to square
one and they start this whole process again next January.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The effort of the insurgents to disrupt this election, how revealing is that effort
of the strength of the insurgency in Iraq in terms of what you might expect over the next year? Has
it been significantly less than the threats and what was expected?

PETER CAVE: Look, I think the main thing that the Government and the Americans managed to do was
keep cars off the road, so they weren't able to deploy car bombs or truck bombs.

They managed to get nine suicide bombers onto the streets of Baghdad. The death toll - 35, 37 for
the whole country for the whole day - was fairly small.

They fired dozens of mortars. There were mortars landing not far from where I was standing now
yesterday. They did very little damage.

The Government has said that one thing that yesterday's election did prove is that, basically, the
insurgents are a small minority, and when they're really clamped down upon, they can't do anything.

Over the next few days, when cars start getting on the road again, I think the insurgents will try
to do something spectacular, so we could see a couple of large car or truck bombings over the next
few days.

KERRY O'BRIEN: One of the biggest questions hanging over this election was going to be whether
enough Sunnis would turn out to vote to actually put a significant enough representation of Sunnis
into the new assembly. Now, what is going to happen there?

PETER CAVE: Well, it's quite clear that they haven't. I mean, most of the Sunni parties boycotted
the election. In the Sunni areas, there was a turnout, a better turnout than expected, but
certainly not a representative turnout. Something's going to have to be done.

Sunnis make up something like 20 per cent of the population - roughly the same as the Kurdish
population. They are going to be under-represented in the 275 seats in the parliament, so they're
going to have to be drafted into the government, they're going to have to be drafted into the
constitutional process and they're going to have to be persuaded before the next election in
December that they're going to have to take part.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That in itself surely is going to be an extremely tricky process, to have a
democratic vote but then to draft in a certain number of your constituents by choice rather than by

PETER CAVE: Indeed it is. I mean, this government we're going to have here for the next year is not
quite as Mickey Mouse as the last one, but it's certainly not a full democratic government. That
happens in a year's time.

Basically, what they're going to have to do is bend a few rules, make a few compromises and rely on
an enormous amount of goodwill, not only from the Shiite majority and the Kurds and everyone else,
but also from the Sunnis. This can only work if there's goodwill. It's not going to work if there

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter Cave, thanks very much for making the time. Thank you.