This week, Iraqis prepared to go to the polls with high hopes. More than 14,000 candidates — including nearly 4,000 women — are running for provincial councils in elections across the country on Saturday.
Despite increased security, the campaign has been marred by violence. Six candidates have been assassinated. Still, many observers say this campaign shows significant improvements over that of 2005. Early voting went smoothly and Sunni Arabs are expected to turn out in large numbers, unlike the last election.
Michael Wahid Hanna, a specialist on the Middle East and international security at the Century Foundation, discusses what’s at stake in the elections and what they mean for Iraq’s future.