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Success Of Iraqi Elections Hinge On Fairness

Success Of Iraqi Elections Hinge On Fairness, Secrecy – UN Official

With elections in Iraq still on track for early next year, their ultimate success will hinge on a fair balloting process and assurances for Iraqis that their votes will be free from reprisal, a senior United Nations election official said today.

Carina Perelli, chief of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, told a press briefing in New York that the elections – scheduled to be held by 31 January 2005 – will work “as long as Iraqis start to trust that this is a serious process, that it’s going to be a secret process, that the possibilities of retaliation against them are going to be minimized [and] that the electoral authority is going to play a fair game.”

“There is a silent majority that is more than eager to express their opinion if only they had a channel, and they are certain there is not going to be retribution or retaliation because of that,” she added.

Ms. Perelli said agreement had been reached on how to conduct the elections, including that – due to the gerrymandering of the country, the lack of a census and the lack of time to conduct a redistricting exercise – it would be impossible to have units of representation below the Government level.

The entire country would be treated as a national district, thus avoiding two problems: first, imbalance in the number of votes needed to gain a seat in the National Assembly; and second, the need to define and register voters and candidates in Kirkuk and Mosul, whose status were to be discussed in the provisions of the Constitution, she noted.

Adopting a national district format also allowed for accumulation and aggregation of interests and votes in different lists of candidates, Ms. Perelli added, while proportional representation would facilitate the creation of lists that were not mere political parties. The participation of independent candidates and ad hoc political organizations was also to be facilitated.

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission would certify each list of candidates – which could comprise a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 275 candidates for the 275-seat National Assembly – signed by at least 500 eligible voters. The only firm prerequisites were that political parties disclose their financial contributions and that any political party found to be associated with a militia or have an armed wing would be disqualified by the Commission.

As for voter eligibility, Ms. Perelli said it had been decided that any individual able to prove himself or herself an Iraqi would be allowed to vote, regardless of the reason they might have lost their nationality rights under the previous regime. However, that decision did not establish a precedent for future bodies responsible for dealing with the question of nationality.

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