Usually, interested Americans watch a foreign election wondering only "who will win?" and/or "will it be fair?" That is not at all the case in Iraq. We don't even really know who the candidates are, but we do know that -- regardless of the inevitable irregularities and likely attempts at fraud -- the Shiites are going to "win" in the sense that their representatives will get a majority of the votes. The story in this election will be how many Iraqis are willing to defy the Sunni thugs for the sake of their own futures as well as future generations, and how many of those people are killed as a result. In that sense, I don't think that there has been an election remotely like this one in my lifetime.
I intend to bifurcate my evaluation of the news from Sunday into two categories: (1) what happened in the Sunni Triangle?; and (2) what happened in the rest of the country? The establishment of democracy anywhere requires time, and this election is only the first step for Iraq. After decades of repression in any country, a qualified success in the first democratic elections thereafter is probably the most that can be reasonably hoped for under the best of circumstances and, obviously, the best of circumstances do not exist in Iraq right now.
(NOTE: I have cross-posted this at Centerfield (here) with the following comment: "Please use this thread to express any thoughts you have regarding the good, the bad and/or the ugly in connection with this weekend's elections in Iraq." If you have something to say (even anonymously) you can do it either here, there, or in both places.)