Millions of Iraqis courageously voted today and reaffirmed not just their commitment to democracy, but their determination to achieve a more secure and peaceful future. Iraqis from every ethnic and religious group, and from all 18 provinces, voted in an election critical to advancing the vision of a democratic, united, federal, and pluralistic Iraq as defined in the Iraqi constitution.
With ink-stained thumbs, Iraqi voters sent a powerful rebuke to the violent extremists who have tried to thwart democratic progress and sow discord in Iraq and throughout the region. Iraqi citizens stood up to extremist threats, and many acted particularly heroically, including a police officer who gave his own life to shield voters from a suicide bomber near a polling station.
This election is one step in a democratic process to stand up a new parliament and form a new government. The United States has stepped up our support to Iraq, and over the coming weeks, we will continue to support Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to fairly, accurately, and transparently carry out its responsibilities as votes are counted and results are certified. We urge Iraq's leaders to respect the constitutional framework for certifying the vote and forming a new government, and we hope this process moves expeditiously given the serious challenges the country faces.
The United States has been proud over the past year to support the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the IHEC in preparing for these elections, and we have advocated with all Iraqi leaders the importance of the election being held on time. We will now continue to encourage all Iraqi leaders to focus on pulling their country together and forming a new government that can effectively deliver for all of Iraq's 18 provinces.