The run up to this weekend's Iraqi election -- the second general election held since the fall of Saddam's regime -- was marked by speculation, anticipation and no shortage of controversy. Since the last such election in 2005, the Iraqi people have witnessed continual changes to their country and political map, and the trajectory of Iraq as determined by this latest election could change accordingly. There is little doubt that, although the elections saw some violence, they were a marked improvement from 2005 and a testament that democracy is taking root in Iraq.
There is much at stake in the results of the election held Sunday. Tense relationships between Iraq's many diverse sects, political parties, tribes, and ethnic groups will adjust, and frays and rifts are possible. Oil contracts made with Baghdad will hang in the balance, and along with them Iraq's future fiscal strength and regional clout. The U.S. withdrawal deadline, meanwhile, is fast approaching, with the country's very security and stability in the balance.
Although the barring of a list of candidates with suspected ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party and the possibility of a delay of the U.S. troop withdrawal were the main points of focus before the elections, these controversies proved to have little real impact on Sunday. Regarding the controversy surrounding the Accountability and Justice Commission's deliberations, only around 150 of 6,100 candidates were ultimately kept off the ballots. And U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones, quoted in the New York Times on March 3, said, "Assuming that everything is going to go off fine, we will execute our withdrawal as we advertised."