When Iraqis went to the polls last week, they had to leave their automobiles behind. Security concerns dictated that no vehicles be allowed near polling places. A late-night comic joked that if that happened in America, the only people voting would be the ones working the election. Few would walk any distance to vote. Some of us leave when we see more than a handful of people waiting in line to vote.

The Iraqi people demonstrated considerable courage in turning out to vote last week. The violence and protest that marred the country's first true election did not materialize this time around. An estimated 70 percent of those eligible to cast ballots for the 275 open seats in parliament did so.

Perhaps most encouraging is the turnout of Sunnis. At the urging of their leaders, they boycotted the constitutional election earlier this year. Those same leaders convinced their followers to vote this time around.

The early results show voting tended to be along ethnic and sectarian lines. The coalition government may be hard to form with such a breakdown. Selection of ministers to run the various operations within the government will be key.

The vote, with the surprisingly high Sunni turnout, was a critical step that had to happen before the U.S. could move forward. The U.S. can only pull out when Iraqis have their own government. A U.S.-fronted, or backed, regime, or one elected with a large percentage of the population failing to participate, makes for a hollow democracy.

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