New message:

The impressive voting turn out in Iraq should not obscure the fact that the country’s large Sunni Arab minority remained broadly disenfranchised. A long silenced majority of ordinary Iraqis defied thr-eats of deadly mayhem to cast votes for a new, and hopefully democratic, political order.

That is a message that all but the most nihilistic of the armed insurgents will have to accept. Many fierce political struggles lie ahead. Yet all who claim to be fighting in the name of the Iraqi people should now recognize that Iraqis have expressed their clear preference that these battles be fought exclusively in the peaceful, constitutional arena. Once the new governing and constitution-writing bodies begin their work, those errors, particularly the needless estrangement of mainstream Sunni Arabs, must be urgently addressed. In the longer run, this election can only be counted as a success if it helps lead to a unified Iraq that avoids civil war. That day has now become easier to envision. But it still appears very far off. It’s impossible to say, in the glow of election day, how many of the millions of Iraqis who voted did so in hopes that they were making the first step toward a Shiite theocracy. What happens next will depend on the wisdom and restraint the largely Shiite victors show in reaching out to Sunnis who have felt unfairly marginalised. — The New York Times