Juan Cole sounding cautiously optimistic
There are, of course, lots of elections in the Arab world. Some are more rigged than others. But there are almost no elections where the sitting prime minister and his party would be allowed to be turned out unexpectedly by an unpredictable and uncontrolled electorate. If Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi's list does poorly and his political star falls as a result of a popular vote, something democratic will have happened in Iraq, for all the serious problems with the elections.That's a far cry from his radio interviews last week calling the elections (or aspects of them) a "joke" or "absurd." Although Allawi has spent far more money (or used state resources, who knows?) on these elections, most people think the list backed by the top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, will likely come out on top.
And now this morning he links to an article by veteran Middle East correspondent for Knight-Ridder, Trudy Rubin, who lays out five "hopeful signs" about how top Shiite leaders plan to exercise the power they're likely to be handed as a result of these elections. Well worth a look.