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Iraqi People Must Control Electoral Process


Iraqi People Must Control Electoral Process - UN Official

A United Nations elections expert just back from Iraq emphasized today that the country's people must have control of the polling process, and that a secure environment and adequate resources were essential to the balloting's success.

According to Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), elections are set to take place no later than 31 January 2005. Voting would be held for the councils at the governorate level, the National Assembly of Kurdistan and the Iraqi National Assembly.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Carina Perelli, Director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, outlined the process of creating "a totally new, independent electoral authority" that would enjoy legitimacy among the Iraqi people and have full autonomy, including the ability to manage its own budget.

She welcomed the Iraqi Governing Council's recent full endorsement of the UN's recommendations in this regard, which were also accepted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as well as all social and political actors contacted by the UN.

A board of seven commissioners plus one director-general will head the institution, Ms. Perelli said, stressing that those individuals must be independent.

The UN mission that she led to Iraq last month heard "the outcry of the population in terms of having more participation in the decision-making processes and being more involved," Ms. Perelli said.

In response, the UN had created a process allowing the community to nominate the seven individuals. Once the process of nominations is completed, the UN will undertake a technical evaluation of the candidates, followed immediately by the establishment of a shortlist of 20 names for the commissioners and five names for the position of director. Those people would then be interviewed.

The UN will also name an international commissioner, but that person would have a "voice but no vote because this has to be a fully Iraqi process," she said.

Concerning security, she acknowledged that "there has been a deterioration of conditions in Iraq," but pointed out that "once you launch an electoral process, particularly if the citizenry starts to believe and take ownership in the process, then the capacity of what we call 'political security' - which is basically people fighting for the right to have that election - also occurs.

"If all these decisions are taken in open discussion with the communities and if people feel that basically their interests have also been taken into consideration it might affect the security situation," she observed.

"Of course, elections under the gun, and elections with bullets and mortars and shelling, are not two things that go together hand-in-hand - that is obvious," she added.

She said the overall cost of elections was currently projected at $250 million to $260 million, but the figure would be adjusted depending on the decisions of the independent electoral authority.

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