Iraqi Newspapers: Elections (And Egyptian Actresses)

The New York Times’s Baghdad Blog surveys Iraqi newspaper coverage of the provincial elections. While official election results are not yet in:

Iraqi newspapers have spent the time since voting booths closed trying to squeeze early indications of the result from their journalists and sources close to the election authorities…

The newspapers are heralding a drift - or perhaps a more emphatic move - away from overtly religious parties and toward a more secular brand of nationalism.

And, while the election dominates the front pages in Iraq:

On the back pages the election does nothing to dislodge the Iraqi newspapers’ usual extensive coverage of the loves, lives, doings, events and non-events in the alternative universe inhabited by Hollywood starlets, models, Egyptian actresses and Lebanese singers.

UPDATE: Based on interviews and first-hand experiences, Suadad al-Salhy, an Iraqi employee of The New York Times in Baghdad, offers some notes of caution:

I was sure before the election that people would move away from their old sectarian political loyalties.

But when I went to Dora on Election Day I was shocked to find that of 12 or 15 people I spoke to only one or two had put aside their sect and voted for qualified people. Everyone we asked said they voted for the Sunni slate Tawafiq, and when we asked why, they had no idea about the people they had voted for…

…I think we need more time, maybe dozens of years, to understand that we are Iraqis and we should choose our governors according to their programs, not their sects, sex, color or whatever…

…There is much talk about non-sectarian parties doing better in the election. But do not make a mistake: these sectarian feelings have not gone away.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.