Celebrations abound in Iraq as people headed to the polls for the election. The ambiance was electric as spontaneous block parties broke out and people celebrated as if it was a national holiday!
Congratulations to those of you in Iraq and we're behind you as you take your steps towards true democracy.
Children can be seen waving flags or playing soccer. Adults are cheering, clapping hands, beating drums, singing, dancing, and waving at passing U.S. and Iraqi military vehicles. There simply seems to have been more energy in the run-up to this election than in previous ones.
Sergeant First Class Larry Bull, also with 5th Brigade, agrees.
"I've seen more smiles than anytime ever before," Bull says. "There seems to be an uplift of the spirits of all the individuals we pass from most everyone and all ages. I believe that the Iraqi people are seeing that the impossible might become the possible after the election. The vast majority of the populace seems to appreciate, not only the Iraqi soldiers, but us."
Sergeant Major James Keesee describes the atmosphere in Mosul as that of a "large playground."
Parents and their children are "walking the streets waving at the Americans and Iraqi-army patrols as they pass by," he says.
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Cooney says, "the streets are filled with children playing soccer," and a general "euphoria" has apparently washed away any real concern of hostilities.
In someplaces they kept the polls open an extra hour because of the massive turnout and long queues.
Some Iraqi polling stations stayed open for an extra hour on Thursday to allow late voters to cast their ballots after a big turnout caused queues in some places, election officials said.
[Electoral Commissioner Hussein] Hendawi said he believed that turnout had exceeded 10 million voters, or some 67 percent, well in excess of the 58 percent recorded in January when many among the once dominant Sunni Arab minority boycotted the U.S.-backed poll.
In Saddam Hussein's home province around Tikrit, where few voted in January, the provisional turnout was 83 percent, an official in the local electoral commission said.
In the Sunni stronghold of Falluja, so great was the turnout compared to the previous vote that polling stations ran out of ballot papers during the day, causing queues to form.