The BBC News website's Iraq election log gathers a range of accounts from people inside Iraq about their day-to-day lives.
In the last instalment of the current log, we hear that the glow of the election is still being felt, but it is fading.
STILL CELEBRATING THE ELECTION WITH YET MORE CAKE
Posted by Zeina Iraqi election candidate, Baghdad, 4 February
Things have been very quiet in Baghdad this week, everything has been much better since the elections. Things seem to be more secure. I wouldn't say it's back to normal but better all the same. Since the elections we have been celebrating every day in our house, friends and family have been coming over, we've had lunch with them and yet more cake. People stay until six in the evening then hurry home before the curfew, although I think this has now been extended.
I was supposed to go to my party and see if we knew any results but my husband has been unwell, so I was unable to go. I will have to go and see them in two days time. I don't think I've been elected, but the important thing is that I ran and tried to make a difference.
We were so happy about the election, it was something completely unexpected. We thought people wouldn't go because they would be too scared of the bombings, but still everyone went.
I watched Bush's speech on Wednesday. I was happy that he mentioned Iran and Syria. They should stop putting their nose into everything that goes on in Iraq. They should take care of their own problems. Right now what is most important is peace, for both rich and poor Iraqis. I hope that maybe in a year's time things will be different although I don't see it right now. Maybe in five year's time things will improve. I don't think the US troops will be leaving soon either. No-one likes the occupation, but I would rather they stayed for a while to keep us safe.
My last thought for this log is that I don't care who wins the election, we just want peace and an Iraqi government which everyone can accept.
THE ELECTION GLOW IS FADING
Posted by Shehab Iraqi teacher and journalist, Basra , 4 February
As you've no doubt heard, things are quiet in Basra, and the glow of the election can still be felt, but it is fading. I was at a big social gathering story last night. There were Sunnis, Shia and Christians, a real mix. People are so pleased that the voting passed so peacefully, only two attacks in Basra on the day itself. Here, in a Shia dominated city, Sunnis voted in massive numbers. This is very pleasing because it proves that the religious divide is not as deep as people believe, and the boycott called by Sunni organisations was ignored - at least here in Basra.
This was not a perfect election, but that it was held is the thing. I witnessed some serious infringements of the rules in the days ahead of the vote. All campaigning was meant to end 48 hours before the opening of the polling stations. This did not happen. Right up to the vote the mosques here in Basra were campaigning for the United Alliance, the main Shia list. Some religious leaders were trying to make voting a religious requirement - they tried to issue a sort of fatwa to this effect. This must have infringed some kind of election rule. As far a I can tell the count seems to be going very smoothly. There's no sign of anything strange happening there.
Of course the election can be read as a massive defeat for the Islamic fighters and the "resistance". They tried to disrupt and even stop the election, but they failed. But this is not the end of the story. I may be a pessimist, but I think the problems will come after the election result, when the party lists, which have been marriages of convenience, start to disintegrate. Under the lists dozens of groups got together for the election. Beyond the election many have nothing in common. I just don't think Iraqis have given up settling our political disputes through violence. All these groups have had a clear interest in co-operating. If that ends, we may be in trouble again.
For now, things are looking really good. In Basra you can really feel it.
WE'VE SEEN A TURNING POINT
Posted by Lt Bryan Suits US soldier, Baghdad, 4 February
It seems quiet overall. My battalion is busy preparing to return home, but our patrols remain busy. The afterglow of the election is still on Iraqi faces. The reality of a representative democracy and the ugliness of open political debate will probably dismay many Iraqis. However, Iraqis are quick to learn and they'll understand that this is what government should look like.
The bottom line for the average Iraqi will be: "Is my town secure? Do I have a working sewer?" If a government with Iraq's oil resources can't answer that quickly, the experiment will be over. Many Iraqis didn't mind the dictatorship of Saddam, though they minded the torture and widespread terror. Does a national election make the garbage go away? Obviously not. But does it give people hope? Yes, it has.
I'm satisfied that we've seen a significant turning point in the war and that Iraqis will begin taking the lead in all aspects of fighting the terrorists. The long-term development of Iraq into a modern nation where everyone can have security and hope will happen more quickly than even Iraqis suspect. I am pleased to see so many people taking advantage of the unrestrained opportunities that Saddam's removal has presented.
Baghdad is choked with the endless blocks of newly purchased cars. The businesses on Karrada Street are bustling and the nightlife is vibrant. Families walk late at night to a popular ice-cream shop and indulge their children with the creamy local ice-cream. The weather is slowly turning warm. I am far more comfortable among Iraqis in this setting than I am in the Green Zone. My men and I know that the Iraqis are not the enemy. We know that Iraqis want what we have at home: a chance for a better future.
My friends at home have no idea what my life has been like for the past year, and I really can't describe it adequately. The day-to-day uncertainty has been the most difficult. Many men in my battalion have never left our base because they're cooks or mechanics, etc. In spite of the risks I've taken, I feel sorry for them. They've never seen the progress that has been made.
The fact that we're better connected via cell phone and internet is equally good and bad. There are some days that our loved ones in the US shouldn't be able to hear Baghdad on the other end of a cell phone. I know from my year in Bosnia that Americans have no real clue about the rest of the world unless they see it for themselves.
I hope Iraqis continue to display the bravery of 30 January. I look forward to following Iraq's progress.
BACK WITH RELATIVES AFTER A NIGHT OF VIOLENCE
Posted by Tariq al-Ani Iraqi law student, Hit, 4 February
We decided not to stay in our house after the fighting on our first night back home. So we are back with relatives outside Hit. I have to make sure my family are safe. Yesterday we did some more repairs on my house before leaving, fixing furniture and other things, my wife caught up with her sister and the children.
We've had the election, but the big picture is not really clear. The difference between now and when Saddam was in power is that now I have a right to say anything, even if all I have to say is confused. There will be no to Saddam's time. Some of differences between now and then are very small, little freedoms... like better salaries, we no longer have to serve in the army or reserves, and we even have satellite television now so we can see how other cultures live. We could not do that under Saddam.
Things would be better, of course, if law and order was restored. The trial of Saddam will be interesting. Iraq is under pressure to try him and others in the regime, but I feel that what's past is past - you just can't bring back those who have been killed. I like the idea of him living and suffering sadness when he sees that Iraqis are now free and of his control. We suffered under Saddam like millions of others, but I have no desire for revenge. What we want is stability, and an end to violence.
I see a good future in Iraq in five years' time, a good future for my children. They will be, to some extent, defined by what I as a father teach them. I want to make them to grow up open-minded. I tell them to be constructive, not destructive. I want them to do the best for themselves, but also for their country.
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
Some of the comments refer to previous logs:
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
I hope the situation goes well, it is very confused at the moment. As Youssef said which is important, the media exaggerates the division of Sunni and Shia, between Iraqis they don't care if they are Sunni, Shia or Kurdish, all together they are Iraqis. He mentioned that they can stay up late in Basra and Iraqis can enjoy the night life - I hope Iraq will become peaceful.
Sami Aziz al-Haj, London,UK
I am confused as to whether the differences between Shia and Sunni really matter, or not. In this country, the picture is one of a great divide and I believe that policy decisions are being made on that basis. The low voting turnout in Sunni areas of Iraq and the instructions from Sunni clerics to boycott the election seem to support that view. However, the comment by Youssef, the Iraqi doctor, made on 3 February and a few other reports of comments from other Iraqis hold the opposite view. This seems an important question to get right.
Mike Bochert, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
I would like to thank everybody who are contributing to conveying the reality on the ground and to make clear to the world that most Iraqis people are looking forward to embrace democracy and freedom no matter the cost. I as a Kurd from Iraqi Kurdistan would like to inform the world that we sacrificed and lost a lot of lives to reach a relatively democratic and semi-free state.
Shwan, Liverpool, UK
I've often wondered how people who live in occupied countries, such as Iraq, build their lives under the constant threat of violent death. Despite the war, couples are married, children are born, men and women still carry out the banalities of life. I felt that it must be unspeakably difficult until these Iraqis submitted pieces of their own lives. And I appreciate their writings. Their personal stories make Iraq, as a whole, more tangible to me. I write to encourage other Iraqis of all socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, to keep writing. Their words unite the world community.
Kellie Scott, Oakland, California, USA
It is truly heartening to read some of these comments coming from people in Iraq who have lived through this important period in history. The Sunnis who chose to boycott their election may soon learn one of their first lessons about democracy. That is, that they have every right to defer the decisions in their country to others because they are not forced to vote. However, they will have to live with the consequences of their choice. It will not stop the momentum of the events already set in motion. The whole world is excited for Iraq and its newfound independence, even if some people in the Arab world do not believe it.
Jack Swain, Chicago, USA
Dear courageous Iraqis, I feel overwhelmed by the courage and steadfastness you all have portrayed during the past years. I praise your efforts in fulfilling the long-awaited civil obligations for your beloved country, Iraq. Someone like me from a relatively peaceful country would not have ventured to step out of the house, risking his life for the sake of voting for a president who might not be better than his predecessor.
Siona Ndum, Douala, Cameroon
Your stories of the fledgling rebuilding of your country and your hopes for the future, are very affecting. You have all been through so much. Now it is time to go forward together and to enjoy your lives again.
Rhys, Invercargill, New Zealand
Being a university student who has just voted in his first own presidential election last November, the feeling of warmth and the ability to exercise one's own free right to elect a representative government is exhilarating. I may personally disagree with our current government's methods of battling terrorist-influenced organizations/governments, but providing a country that has been oppressed for years and now finally has the chance to voice itself brings tears to my eyes as an American and a human being. Reading of the wonderful experiences voting for the first time, I too felt the same when I went to the polls. I pray that this election is the start of a long chain of good fortune for Iraq and our world as a whole.
Chris Clavin, Berkeley, CA, USA
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