Iraqis in Iran began voting in their country's first democratic elections for a National Assembly on 28 January and, according to Iranian state radio and television, the turnout was impressively high. Indeed, more than 60,000 people living in Iran registered to participate in the election, more than any other Iraqi expatriate population.
Voting in Iraq itself took place on 30 January, although the results probably will not be known for up to 10 days. Voter participation, particularly in the north and south of the country, reportedly was very high. Radio Farda correspondent Ahmad Rafat reported on 31 January that more than 8 million of Iraq's 16 million eligible voters turned out the previous day.
However, despite the relevance to Iran of the elections in Iraq, domestic events are overshadowing them. Iran commemorates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution starting on 31 January. Called the Ten Days of Dawn, this is a celebration of the achievements of 26 years of theocratic rule.
Iranian state television reported on 30 January that the elections were "welcomed overwhelmingly by the people of different Iraqi cities, especially Baghdad," and it added, "the elections have been extraordinarily welcome in northern and southern Iraq." A correspondent in the south reported that the "cities of Al-Imarah, Al-Nasiriyah, Samawa, Umm Qasr, and Al-Basrah witnessed the extensive presence of people at polling stations today." A correspondent in the north reported that "people of Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, and Dahuk provinces took part in the elections with particular enthusiasm."
Iranian newspapers did not appear to have correspondents in Iraq and relied instead on the Iranian Students News Agency, Fars News Agency, and Mehr News Agency, BBC Monitoring noted on 30 January.
Newspaper commentary on the election varied across the political spectrum. The hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami," for example, hinted that the United States would stay in Iraq regardless of the election. More conservative newspapers, such as "Hamshahri," were generally factual. "Iran," which is the state news agency's daily, ran an analysis of the Iraqi candidates and voters. The reformist "Sharq" daily had eight pages of coverage about the Iraqi elections -- this included historical pieces about Iraq, analysis of the parties, and a discussion of U.S. organizations' involvement in the election.
A postelection report in the 31 January "Iran Daily," which is IRNA's English-language daily, was factual in nature. On the same day, the English-language "Tehran Times" used a Mehr News Agency dispatch that cited Reuters. An editorial in the daily referred to the "new era in Iraq" and "massive voter turnout." "A show of strength by the people of Iraq," was the headline on the front page of "Iran" on 31 January. The story described public participation and incidents of terrorist violence.
"Hamshahri" announced on 31 January that the Iraqi people ignored the terrorists. The top item on the front page of "Khorasan" announced that 72 percent of the Iraqi people voted in the elections. "Gilan-i Imruz," from the northern part of the country, focused instead on the pending visit of the Iranian judiciary chief.
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