DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Iraqs Sunni Arabs shed their political apathy and voted in force in polls that opened outside the country on Friday, ahead of a March 7 election. We dont want our voice to go to waste again, said Haitham al-Saeed, who fled with his family five years ago to Syria from the district of Adhamiya in Baghdad as sectarian strife mounted. I voted for the list I think is most likely to restore security to Iraq. The election for a new parliament will take place in Iraq on Sunday, but overseas voting began early in 16 countries. Judge Qasim al-Aboudi, a senior official of Iraqs Independent High Electoral Commission, told a news conference in Baghdad that some 1.4 million expatriates were eligible to vote. An estimated two million Iraqi refugees have fled their homeland. The overseas voting was taking place in Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Sweden, the United States, Britain and other countries. No clear winner is expected, raising the importance of the exiled vote, especially in Syria, which hosts the largest concentration of Iraqi refugees outside their homeland. We voted for the Allawi list. We want security and not sectarianism, said Marwan Haitham, a Sunni engineer who cast ballots with his wife. The exercise in democracy is rare in the Arab world, where authoritarian rulers hold power and political systems ensure the marginalisation of non-government-backed candidates. At the Mezze polling station in Damascus, Iraqi voters were immaculately dressed and families cast ballots holding their children. Syrian forces guarded the premises where signs were written in Arabic and Kurdish, Iraqs two official languages. In Jordan, political analysts say most of the voting among the mainly Sunni Iraqi community is likely to go to the Iraqiya election coalition headed by Allawi. At least Allawi is not a religious fanatic. We are tired of being ruled by turbans, said one voter, who declined to give his name. Former members of the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq from 1968 until Iraq fell to US forces in 2003, said they would vote for Iraqiya. We want Allawi because he was an old Baathist and does not favour de-Baathification that the pro-Iranian sectarian parties want, said Omar Farhan, a Sunni from Adhamiya who fled Iraq seven years ago. We hope that through this election we will get a new leadership and new parliament and new government that will get us out this crisis. This will help us go back to our homes, said Ahmad Shadhan, an emigre engineer from Baghdad. In Lebanon, where Iraqi refugees number 50,000, security was also a main theme. Sunni voters know they have to get rid of this situation of explosions, extremists and the bad economic situation and this could all be achieved through the elections, said election monitor Bassem Jomaa Abed in Beiruts southern suburbs.