It seemed the secular slates and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Coalition of the State of Law reigned supreme today during provincial elections in Iraq. Most voters interviewed by McClatchy across the country expressed resentment towards religious parties they'd voted for in the past. While Maliki comes from the Islamic Dawa Party both Shiite and Sunni Arab voters cast ballots for him. He recast himself as a nationalist last year and the election will be an indicator of just how popular he's become. The elections are a litmus test of what's to come during national elections at the end of the year.
Below are quotes from across the country on provincial election day in Iraq some show hope, others resignation and others disdain for a system they feel has brought them nothing:
"We came to the center with enthusiasm, but we didn't vote. We couldn't find our names. This is the third center we've gone to – and don't find our names. I don't want to lose my voice. I'm afraid that if I don't vote, my form will be used for me to vote for God knows whom." -- Umm Atheer, a Sunni Arab mother of two in Baghdad
"The last election I voted for the Supreme Council and got nothing. Today I voted for Maliki's list even though I know nothing about the candidates. I just voted so the Supreme Council doesn't take it. They would steal my vote. I didn't give them the chance to commit forgery." Bassim Mohammed, 24, a Shiite Arab in Najaf. He refers to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the most powerful Shiite party in Iraq who control most of the southern provinces.
"A long time ago we only dreamed to have something like this in our country. Not long ago we were deprived of a voice." -- Nawal Salam, 48. She and her family were displaced to the Shiite district of Kadhemiyah in Baghdad. Her brother was killed during the sectarian war. She voted for Maliki's party.
"We are voting today with the hope of change. Change in everything – everything. Our lives are a nightmare. We mustn't stand aside silent. We want security. We want harmony in our lives, this has been lost to us for so long now and we miss it, We want normal lives." -- Nemeer Mohammed, a Sunni Arab graduate student in Baghdad.
"I voted for the Fraternity of Nineveh (Kurdish slate) because it represents my race and we hope it would help us get our rights as Kurds. We want to live in peace like others." -- Leila Solaiman Mohammed, 45, a Kurdish housewife in Sheikhan a village in the northern fields of Nineveh province
"Before we were displaced and today I entered the election center safely and chose those who represent me freely." -- Sliwa Najah Matti, 23, an Assyrian college student in Nineveh province
"It's our duty to vote and it is the duty of everbody as well. We are saturated by unjust treatment of the previous people and we hope that the new people will be better than them in time. I do not really believe it can change." -- Abdullah Ahmed, 35, a laborer in Fallujah in Anbar province. The Sunni Arab boycotted the last election
"To elect is a duty for us, the followers of the family of the prophet. I voted for the honest and decent candidates who supports the people with comfort. We didn't have services in the past and we hope to have them in the future." -- Mohammed Ali, 59, a Shiite Arab in Basra and Sadr supporter