Shiites, long oppressed under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, comprise an estimated 60 percent of the population. The minority Sunni Muslims, an estimated 20 percent of the population, held much of the power under Hussein, and their clerical leaders urged them to boycott the election. But in its first statement since the balloting, the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars said it would "consider the new government . . . as a transitional government with limited powers." The parliament that is to be formed has already been designated as transitional, charged with writing a constitution and holding another election in December. The clerics' withdrawal from the election last fall had threatened to undermine the poll's legitimacy. Their decision, and threats aimed at Sunnis from insurgents opposed to the election, sharply dampened turnout in some Sunni Muslim areas.
The clerics said the expected low Sunni turnout confirms their position that the vote, taken while American and other foreign troops are in Iraq, is illegitimate.
"We make it clear to the United Nations and the international community that they should not get involved in granting this election legitimacy because such a move will open the gates of evil," the statement said.
This has been pretty well chewed over by the blogosphere with most writers pointing out the silliness of claiming that the South African elections in 1994 would have been illegitimate without participation by white Afrikaners. This point seems to have gone over the Post's head so let's try another approach:
[ABC News Studios in New York, February 22, 2008 6:03 PM EST - American Democracy at Risk] Peter Jennings: Good evening. Our top story tonight: Serious concerns about the legimacy of the upcoming Presidential election contest. Today fundamentalist Christian leaders threatened a boycott of the Presidential election if former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, is nominated to head his party's ticket. Just a few days ago Mr. Guiliani all but wrapped up his party's nomination with a resounding victory in the South Carolina Republican primary election. Now, Christian leaders including the Reverends Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and Dr. James Dobson say they will order their followers to stay home in November if Guiliani wins the nomination. [video clip of press conference] Jerry Falwell: This is a Christian nation. It was founded under God's law and it's an abomination in the eyes of God that we are about to hold, for the first time in our history, a Presidential election where both major party candidates are pro-homosexual and pro-abortion. Jennings: Some of the more extreme leaders in the anti-abortion movement are threatening to step up bombings and other attacks at abortion clinics if their demands are not met. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center monitors elections around the world, believes we have a real problem. [video clip at Carter Center] Jimmy Carter: Well I think we have to take a step back and consider their position. There are millions of evangelical Christians in this country who are very committed to their beliefs. I was one myself before I fell in love with Yasser Arafat. They are petitioning the US Supreme Court to suspend this election if their concerns are not addressed by the Republican party leadership, and I've ordered our attorneys at the Carter Center to prepare an amicus brief on their behalf. We believe the best solution is to allow President Bush to remain in office into next year if we can't negotiate a timely compromise...I'm sorry. I can't keep from laughing any longer.