Iraq Election a Turning Point for Democracy?

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Iraqis will cast their votes Sunday in an important election that could be a turning point for democracy in that country.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers have flooded the streets to prevent attacks by terrorists trying to keep Iraqis away from the polls.

A string of blasts targeted voters in Baghdad on Thursday, killing 17 people.

Sunday's election will decide the government that oversees the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. It will help determine whether Iraq can finally move past the deep Sunni-Shiite divisions that almost destroyed it.

Muslim religious leaders, including Grand Ayatolla Sistani, have ordered Iraqis to vote in order to safeguard the nation's young democracy. Iraqi expatriates voted early by absentee ballot in 16 countries Friday.

"As an Iraqi citizen, I have come today to decide my future, and as a citizen I will not allow a dictator like Saddam Hussein to control Iraq again," one Iraqi resident said.

For more on the situation in Iraq, Jonathan Schanzer, with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, spoke with CBN News on Friday's Newswatch program. Click play for his insight, following this report.

This is only Iraq's second election for a full parliamentary term since the U.S. led invasion in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein. It's hoped to be another sign that Iraq is on its way to peace, stability and freedom.

Omar Abrahim, an owner of an ice cream parlor blown up twice by car bombs, said he is optimistic.

"Now we understand democracy, now what's right for Iraq," he said.

What Democrats used to dismiss as a lost cause has been transformed into a thriving civil society that could in turn transform the Middle East.

Bloody sectarian civil war has given way to hard nosed but peaceful democratic debate, in what Gen. David Petraeus calls "Iraqracy."

*Originally broadcast on March 5, 2010.

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