Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Unknown assailants in southern Iraq have gunned down two more candidates running for the political coalition of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in the 30 January elections. Alaa Hamid, who was running on Allawi's slate of candidates for the 275-member National Assembly, was shot dead on Monday in the southern port city of Basra in front of his family. A second candidate, Riad Radi, was also shot dead. Radi was planning to run in a local race for Basra's provincial council on a list supported by Allawi's party. (Al Jazeera)

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Tuesday of the risks of US-orchestrated fraud in the January 30 elections in Iraq, Iranian state media reported. The polls could be followed by a military coup, he also cautioned. (IranMania)

As pre-election violence worsens in Iraq, President Bush as been huddling with top aides -- and speaking by phone with a top Iraqi leader. Bush's phone call to President Gazi al-Yawer came a day after a similar talk with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Afterward, the president discussed Iraq with his National Security Council. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Bush and al-Yawer talked over security concerns -- and ways to encourage turnout in spite of it. (Boston Herald)

Voter registration among Iraqis resident in Syria got off to a slow start this week but is expected to pick up later on, Luis Martinez-Betanzos, country head of the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting (OCV) Programme in Syria, told IRIN. On Monday, the first day of registration, a total of 1,400 Iraqis registered to "have their say over the future of Iraq," Martinez-Betanzos said. "The first day is usually slow," he added. "(Voters) will think, chat with their neighbours, and then they will register in mass numbers." (IRIN via Reuters)

The January 30 elections in Iraq are only the first step in an extended process of establishing an effective, functional state with a government that enjoys broad popular legitimacy, according to Phebe Marr, author of The Modern History of Iraq and senior fellow at the United States Institute for Peace. Marr addressed the World Affairs Council in Washington January 13 in a forum entitled "Countdown to Elections: An Assessment of the Situation in Iraq." Speaking about the many ideas, agendas and identity issues competing for space in the Iraqi political arena, she said, "Iraq is undergoing a fundamental transformation?. It's going to take a decade or two, a generation to sort these fundamental issues out." "This is going to be a very long and bumpy road," she said. (Assyrian International News Agency)

Iraq's Commission for Public Integrity has found "common points of corruption" in the country's ministries, and is urging citizens to vote in the Jan. 30 legislative elections as a step toward reducing graft. The ministries squander money, their committees are often "unfair" and "strongly influenced by senior officials," and contracts with foreign companies aren't in accordance with the law, the commission, headed by Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, said in a statement e-mailed today by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. (Bloomberg)

Democratic confusion. January 30 is rapidly approaching and political parties across Iraq are on the campaign trail -- all 66 of them. For a public not used to voting, the election promises to be confusing, but election workers are doing their part to educate the public. But at least in this vote, the final results are still wide open. Despite the miserable employment situation in the country, some in Iraq are still enjoying their jobs. Kadhim al-Rakib is one of them. For the last three weeks, he has been traveling through Iraq explaining tohis fellow citizens what, exactly, the election on Jan. 30 is all about. (Spiegel Online)

No hurdle too great for Utah Iraqi voters. This weekend, Benan Zahawi and several friends will climb into a rented van, drive 12 hours across the desert, then turn around and drive 12 hours back. Next week, they'll make the same sleepless trip all over again. That's 48 hours and 2,700 miles — just so they can vote in the upcoming Iraqi elections. Zahawi is part of a group of about 50 mostly Shia Iraqis leaving Utah on Friday night to make the trip to Irvine, Calif., the closest of five U.S. polling places. (deseret news)

Egbert F. Bhatty: Why Is Bush Rushing The Elections In Iraq? No matter what happens come Heaven, Hell, or high water President George W Bush wants elections held in Iraq January 30th. Then, he can declare Iraq a democracy and hightail it out of there. This simple, if not simplistic, view of democracy is characteristic of how Bush thinks. For him, elections == democracy. What Bush does not understand is that elections do not make a democracy. It is democracy that makes elections possible! (Washington Dispatch)

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