'Democracy at Work' as Iraqis Cast Parliamentary Votes

Signs of hope are seen as Iraqis begin voting in the country's first elections for a full-term parliament since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Special voting kicked off on Monday with hospital patients, soldiers and prisoners who placed their votes in plastic ballot boxes. They are the first to dip their fingers in purple ink ahead of the general Iraqi population who will go to the polls on Thursday.

While violent insurgency has already killed at least nine people during the opening votes, according to the Associated Press, Iraqis are looking toward achieving peace in the war-torn country as they had during the referendum of the constitution, which was adopted in October.

As Iraq makes progress towards democracy and peace, the country has also been marked with several significant accomplishments in the past couple of years.

Chaplain James R. Lewis, who is in the 111th Chaplain's Detachment in Baghdad and a representative of the United Methodist Church's East Ohio and Florida conferences, noted some of the developments and accomplishments. They include the renovation of 3,105 schools with another 950 currently under rehabilitation; training of 860 secondary school master trainers who passed on training to 31,772 secondary school educators throughout the nation; printing of 8.7 million revised math and science books that no longer mention Saddam Hussein; an increase in health care spending by up to 30 times its prewar levels; the establishment of 26,785 new Iraqi businesses; and the completion of 65 water treatment projects with nearly100 more still in progress.

"I am glad to say that your prayers for peace on earth are yielding results, and peace is on the move in this end of the world," said Lewis, according to the United Methodist News Service. "We're not all there yet, but we are making significant progress in that direction."

Lewis also mentioned signs of a large Sunni turnout for the parliamentary election this week. Sunnis had protested against the January elections along with the constitution, but Sunni voter turnout has been greater.

Despite ongoing insurgencies, Lewis dubbed the signs of progress as "democracy at work."

Iraq's 15.5 million voters will elect a 275-member assembly from around 7,000 candidates for a full four-year term legislature.