Saturday, January 22, 2005

Tennessee police can't work Iraqi elections

Lebanon, Tenn. Police officers in Wilson County have been told they can't work the upcoming Iraqi elections in Nashville because the polling places they would be guarding might be the target of terrorist attacks.

The Mt. Juliet police department and the Wilson County Sheriff's office both say they are banning their officers from helping out with the elections.

(WVLT Volunteer TV)

blog round-up

Baghdad Burning: river, not a fan of the interim government on the best of days, describes the bleak water situation. [I feel the water situation could become an issue in the upcoming elections. -ed.]

Healing Iraq: Zeyad gives us a countdown to elections post, giving an overview of election and also opinions on security issues, Ba'athist/Sunni participation, and more. Zeyad also briefly mentions that he will not be blogging again until the elections are over.

Daily Kos: a thread on how Iraqi election security is a mess.

Belmont Club: Continues the series Lost Elections 2 and Lost Elections 3. [and thanks to B.C. for linking to us -ed.]

The Adventures of Chester: Chester found a commercial in support of the Iraqi elections, aired on Arabic-language TV in Iraq.

The deadline for expatriate Iraqis to register for voting in the upcoming 30 January elections has been extended by two days due to low registration figures. The extensions was made on Saturday after only about one in eight of those eligible to vote signed up during the initial phase. (Al Jazeera)

A similar story from AP.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iraq Iyad Allawi has said it will be impossible to provide full security for this month's parliamentary elections. Mr Allawi said the measures being put in place were not enough to prevent all attacks by insurgents. He was speaking after two more suicide bombings apparently targeting Shias killed at least 25 people on Friday. (BBC News)

A list of the main players in Iraq's elections. (AP via Boston Globe)

And from the Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), examines some of the more prominent of the 285 electoral lists: The National Accord List (include Allawi), Unified Iraqi Alliance (Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim), The Independent Democrats Coalition (Adnan Pachachi).

Millions of ballots have been printed, thousands of voting booths assembled and 300,000 Iraqi and American troops put at the ready. Everything is in place for Iraq's national elections. All that's needed now are voters. Participation is the crucial question in next Sunday's parliamentary election, which the insurgents, mostly Sunni Arabs, have vowed to disrupt. Substantial Sunni turnout in the face of intimidation and murder could spell the beginning of the end of the rebellion and hasten the day when America can bring home its 150,000 troops. (AP via Boston Globe)

Violence alone would not discredit the results of Iraq's January 30 election despite the fact that conditions for the vote were far from ideal, the United Nations' electoral adviser in Iraq said overnight. "I know that there will be violence leading up to the elections and there's likely to be violence during the elections. I still do not believe that this will disqualify the elections," said UN electoral adviser Carlos Valenzuela a day after two car bombs killed 27 people. (The Herald Sun [Australia])

Jim Miur, BBC News: Danger haunts Iraq's campaign trail. With just a week to go before elections, Iraq has seen an upsurge of violence by insurgents determined to drive out the Americans and their allies. How long can the region sustain the fight for what President George W Bush has called the worthy prize of Iraq's liberation?

Iraq gas shortages overshadow election. Taxi driver Raed Ali sleeps in his cab in streets that crackle with gunfire after dark, risking robbery or death to get a good spot at daybreak in one of the gasoline lines that wind through Baghdad's muddy alleys and gridlocked thoroughfares. The irony of fuel shortages in one of the world's leading sources of petroleum is high on the list of hassles facing Iraqis, siphoning off much of the excitement over next week's national elections. [...] (AP)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed speculation that the Iraqi elections "won't happen" or will be delayed beyond Jan. 30 during an inaugural ball here Jan. 20 honoring troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. (US Dept. of Defense)

Associated Press gives a just-the-numbers rundown on Iraq's elections.

In many parts of Iraq, where Sunni insurgents post warnings against participating in elections and threaten to hit polling stations with car bombs, the choice facing citizens is whether to vote at all. But in the relatively safe Shia south, the main question is not whether to vote, but how: must a good Shia vote for the “clerics' list” or can pragmatism can justify other choices? (Financial Times)

For almost a week, nearly half of Baghdad has been without water, thanks to what the government says is an insurgent attack on one of its water mains. Coming at the height of campaigning for January 30 parliamentary elections, the crisis has fed cynicism and reduced confidence in the administration of Iyad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister. The water crisis, which US sources say has cut supplies by 30 to 40 per cent and left neighbourhoods in the south and west of the city entirely dry, comes on top of an acute petrol shortage that has forced motorists to queue for up to 12 hours, as well as chronic power cuts. (Financial Times)

A Southern Baptist chaplain stationed in Iraq has requested special prayer for U.S. troops involved in the historic democratic elections scheduled Jan. 30 in that country. "Our troops will be delivering the voting machines and ballots to villages and cities throughout Iraq and are prime targets for the insurgents. Encourage your friends and family members and those within our churches to pray specifically for our soldiers and the electoral process," Capt. Lyle Schackelford asked in an e-mail to friends and family members. (BP News)

Press release: Public attitudes toward the upcoming elections in Iraq are decidedly mixed, according to a new Harris Poll. Only a third (34%) of the U.S. public believes the situation in Iraq will improve after the elections, and less than a third (28%) believes that the elections will lead to a reasonably free and democratic system of government. Less than a quarter (24%) of the public thinks that Iraq will be a model which will help spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East. And less than one in five believes that the elections will enable most U.S. troops to leave Iraq in the next year (18%), or that there will be a reduction in the number of attacks on U.S. troops there (17%).

Amir Taheri: Iraq Election: Wider Significance. Talk to Iraqis on any subject these days and you are likely to hear one word: ba’ad! This is short for the phrase “ba’ad al-intikhabat” which means “after the elections.” Weddings are postponed until after the elections, as are business contracts, poetry recitals, the opening of new plays, the start of the football season, and, of course, the rebuilding of towns and villages wrecked by months of insurgency. Also put on hold are big projects financed by the $18 billion US aid package and more than $6 billion pledged by Europe, Japan and the Arab states. [...] (Arab News)

Today, we visited the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, Duhok Governorate Bureau and met with manager Mr. Bayar Tahir Duski. He was very busy during our Q and A session which was interrupted many times because he was working intensively and other queries during this interview. (Friends of Democracy)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Violence will not stop poll, says UN official. Staff face death and intimidation but preparations for huge logistical challenge of Iraq elections go ahead. (The Guardian [UK])

Underfunded parties fight to be heard before elections. The National Democratic Party in Iraq has fought for six decades against various tyrannical regimes. It has voiced a tolerant, grass-roots democratic vision for unifying the country. It has leaders who stuck it out instead of fleeing into exile. It also has virtually no chance when citizens go to the polls on Jan. 30. (Boston Globe)

The commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division predicted Thursday insurgent attacks will "settle down a bit" after Iraq holds elections Jan. 30, though he added his deploying troops will be ready if violence After the Election, It Won't Get Easiercontinues to escalate. (AP via Mercury News)

Chilean Senator Sergio Paez, president of the Inter-Parliamentarian Union (IPU), will participate as observer in the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. (XINHUA online)

BusinessWeek: After the Election, It Won't Get Easier. Despite continued violence, Iraq's planned Jan. 30 election looks set to occur. It's unlikely to be either the decisive turning point the Bush Administration once hoped for or the unmitigated disaster critics predict. Instead, this vote at best will be a step on the difficult road toward creating a viable, self-governing country.

Blog Belmont Club: The Lost Elections. Blogger Wretchard responds to an article in The Nation [previously linked].

Letter sent to The Guardian: Iraq elections are not free. Iraq is being denied free and fair elections, after enduring decades of Saddam's brutal dictatorship. The US and British occupation governments have engineered a process for reproducing the US-appointed Iraqi interim government to prolong the occupation and incite sectarian and ethnic conflicts.

An overwhelming majority of Iraqis continue to say they intend to vote on Jan. 30 even as insurgents press attacks aimed at rendering the elections a failure, according to a new public opinion survey. The poll, conducted in late December and early January for the International Republican Institute, found 80 percent of respondents saying they were likely to vote, a rate that has held roughly steady for months. (Washington Post)

United Nations diplomats are warning that Iraq's first democratic election will be held without wide-scale international monitoring. The UN says it cannot observe the January 30 poll because it played a role in setting up the elections, and no other international organisation has stepped in to offer assistance. (Financial Times)

Iraqi blogger Ali of Free Iraqi reports on the details of extensive polls of 300 Iraqi men and women regarding the upcoming Iraqi elections, along with analysis of the poll giving breakdowns by district.

The Nation: Iraq's Lost Elections. In the run-up to the January 30 election in Iraq, the prospects for a fair and credible outcome have steadily diminished. As Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reported, rather than the normal democratic ritual of voters and candidates, what Iraqis know is "a campaign in the shadows, where candidates are often too terrified to say their names. Instead of holding rallies, they meet voters in secret, if they meet them at all. Instead of canvassing for votes, they fend off death threats." Filkins further reported: "Of the 7,471 people who have filed to run, only a handful outside the relatively safe Kurdish areas have publicly identified themselves. The locations for the 5,776 polling places have not been announced, lest they become targets for attacks."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A rift emerged within Iraq's electoral commission today, as its spokesman refused to quit despite a board decision to scrap his job, just 10 days before the landmark January 30 vote. "In the light of the sensitive security and political situation, to preserve the credibility and transparency of the commission's work... and to guarantee its independence, the commission has decided to suppress the position of official spokesman until further notice," the commission said in a statement. (News Interactive [Australia])

Iraq's Minister for Provincial Affairs accused Iran of spreading its "sphere of influence" throughout Iraq, in preparation for the January 30th elections. "Many Iranians are producing fake Iraqi identity cards to be able to take part in the elections", Wa'el Abdol-Latif said, speaking to the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (Middle East) daily yesterday. In particular Abdol-Latif warned that the Iranian regime was becoming very influential in Basra. (Iran Focus)

Staff members of a group helping Iraqis register to vote in their homeland's upcoming elections were forced out of their suburban Chicago offices by village officials concerned about a possible attack on the building. The International Organisation for Migration plans to move its 15 paid workers to the northwest side of Chicago from Niles, said on Thursday Oliver Vick, who heads the organisation's local office. "We are having to move our offices, and we are moving to continue serving the Iraqi community in the best possible way," Vick said. Niles is a village north of the city. (Al Jazeera)

Sunni Vote Boycott May Not Hurt Community. There are no election posters anywhere in sight in Baghdad's Sunni stronghold of Azamiyah. Even when a single banner for a Sunni-led party was put up recently, local youths promptly hauled it down. Iraq's majority Shiites are embracing the Jan. 30 vote, which is expected to confirm their new status as the country's most politically powerful group. Many Sunni leaders want the vote postponed, and militant Sunni clerics are calling for a boycott. (AP)

Frank Devine: Elections in tough places give optimism a good name. (The Australian)

Spirit of America is attempting to create a network of bloggers in Iraq to provide grassroots information during the elections. [I wish I knew how to read Arabic -ed.]

Two Sunni Muslim organisations have agreed to take part in the local election in a single province despite their rejection of nationwide balloting for the new National Assembly. (The Age [Australia])

Fact sheet issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad outlining the Transitional Administrative Law’s criteria for candidacy to Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly and the timeline for the Assembly to complete its work in drafting a constitution. (US Dept. of State)

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. (US Dept. of State)

David Limbaugh: Iraq democracy naysayers. Far be it from me to accuse the mainstream media of rooting for failure in the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections, but their reporting sometimes makes you wonder. (Washington Times)

Austin Bay: Saddam Hussein's henchmen are already casting their votes in this month's Iraqi elections -- with bombs, kidnapping and murder as their ballots. This antidemocratic campaign has deep and dirty pockets: billions skimmed from Saddam's extortion, theft and smuggling schemes. The illicit money stash pays for terror and civil war -- blood money that spills more blood.

Iraqi blogger Omar of Iraq The Model posts pictures of the election posters in Baghdad.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Shiites Want 'Democratic' not 'Theoretic' Iraq . It is almost certain that Shiites constituting 60 percent of the Iraqi population will win that nation's elections on January 30th. Since prominent Shiite leaders stayed in exile in Iran during the Saddam Hussein era, some worry that a Sharia [Islamic law] state directed by Tehran might be formed in Bagdat (Baghdad). But Shiites, who were among those most suppressed by Saddam, say they want a 'democracy, not a theocracy." [...] (Zaman Online)

And a similar article from Christian Science Monitor.

PROFNET WIRE: GOVERNMENT & LAW: Iraq Elections Jan. 19, 2005. Following are experts who can comment on issues related to the upcoming Iraq elections: [...]

JINSA report: Elections in Iraq and Palestine and America. It was telling that a major U.S. newspaper that had been reporting mainly bad news from Iraq chose to run a cheerful photo yesterday of Iraqi women preparing for elections. The paper was, no doubt, cognizant of a poll in Iraq showing that nearly 85 percent of Iraqis said they planned to vote. We confidently predict that the major paper will now begin to run positive stories about the politics of a country emerging from 35 years of totalitarian hell. [...]

A Tulsa company says it will be providing metal detectors for use during this month's national elections in Iraq. (Oklahoma News Channel 4)

The sound of boots clattering up helicopter ramps at dawn kicked off a series of raids Wednesday by U.S. Marines, who are using everything from concrete barriers to no-parking signs to help secure Iraq's elections in 10 days. Marines are working side by side with Iraqi SWAT teams-in-training and conferring with sheiks and police chiefs. They are clearing out health clinics to make room for potential casualties - and prison cells for captured insurgents. (AP)

5 Car Bombs Rock Baghdad Before Elections. Insurgents unleashed a wave of car bombings across the capital Wednesday, killing about a dozen people, despite stepped-up U.S. and Iraqi measures to protect this month's elections. North of Baghdad, insurgents killed a British security officer and kidnapped a Japanese engineer, officials said. Gunmen fired on the Baghdad office of a major Kurdish party and two senior officials escaped assassination in separate attacks in the north. (AP)


Your humble editor here. Apologies for the lack of reports in the past ~24 hours. Blogger has been having problems (Internal server errors, and the like) resulting in multiple lost posts. Only just now was I able to successfully post an update.

Blogger Support has been contacted, but hopefully the problems went away on their own. <fingers crossed>

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)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

President Bush spoke Tuesday morning with Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Jordan's King Abdullah, the latest in a series of conversations the president is having with world leaders about Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. (AP via Boston Globe)

Michael Gove: This is not Apocalypse Now in Iraq, but it might be the genesis of hope. [...] There is a particular point at which knowledge appears to end and a huge black hole begins. It seems to occur somewhere in the 1960s. The specific event beyond which most commentators now find it difficult to see is the Vietnam War. [...] The war to liberate Afghanistan had barely begun before sceptics were suggesting that a “Vietnam-style quagmire” loomed. [...] In the past few weeks the number, and weight, of those concluding that the Iraq war has been a foolish adventure has grown. [...] The demand that we should learn from history makes sense. But, sadly, none of the comparisons so far drawn with Vietnam display a full sense of the nature of that conflict, or the one we face now. (The Times [UK])

A Catholic archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq was freed Tuesday without any ransom being paid, a day after he was seized by gunmen, the Vatican said. (AP)

Iraq will seal its borders, extend a curfew and restrict movement to protect voters during the Jan. 30 election, officials announced Tuesday after the latest major insurgent attack - a suicide bombing that killed three people outside the offices of a leading Shiite political party. (AP) Also another story on the election security measures from the BBC.

A car bomb has exploded in south Baghdad, killing four guards and injuring eight people near the offices of a leading Iraqi Shia party, Aljazeera reports. Tuesday's bomb exploded by a checkpoint barrier about 60m from the headquarters of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an important Shia party. (Al Jazeera)

Broadcasters are beefing up their roles in preparation for the Jan 30. elections. (Waveguide [UK])

“Hotel journalism” is the only word for it. More and more, Western reporters in Baghdad are reporting from their hotels rather than the streets of Iraq’s towns and cities. Some are accompanied everywhere by hired and heavily armed Western mercenaries. A few live in local offices from which their editors refuse them permission to leave. Most use Iraqi “stringers” — part-time correspondents who risk their lives to conduct interviews for American or British journalists — and none can contemplate a journey outside the capital without days of preparation unless they “embed” themselves with American or British forces. (

A series of new U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq paint a grim picture of the road ahead and conclude that there's little likelihood that President Bush's goals can be attained in the near future. Instead of stabilizing the country, national elections Jan. 30 are likely to be followed by more violence and could provoke a civil war between majority Shiite Muslims and minority Sunni Muslims, the CIA and other intelligence agencies predict, according to senior officials who have seen the classified reports. (San Jose Mercury News)

People are eager to vote in this Shi'ite Muslim city located more than 200 miles from the turmoil of Baghdad and adjoining Sunni Muslim strongholds, say local officials who boast of success keeping violence to a minimum by working with tribal, religious and political leaders. In the city's police-run operations room, blue lines cut across large hanging maps of this ancient city, dividing it into areas that Iraqi police and multinational forces will protect during the Jan. 30 elections. (Washington Times)

Iraq's coming election offers voters a dizzying array of choices. Communists, Islamists, monarchists, and neo-Baathists are lining up for a slice of power in the new government. While they have intensely different views on what sort of state Iraq should be, there is one thing on which almost all of them agree: The threat of being killed for participating in the political process is likely to rise in the days and weeks ahead. (Christian Science Monitor)

Editorial: Even flawed Iraq elections better than delaying vote. As with most everything involving the United States and Iraq, the upcoming elections are unlikely to come off entirely as hoped or planned. But despite the lack of security in some parts of the country, justifiable fears that might keep many Iraqis from the polls and a possible boycott by the Sunni minority, the election should take place as scheduled on Jan. 30. ( [Central Illinois])

There have been many desperate days for Iraqis in Metro Detroit since U.S. troops helped Iraqis pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad 21 months ago. But Monday was for celebration. The smiling faces of freedom and democracy trumped the bitter cold, as hundreds of Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans traveled for as long as three hours to register to vote in an abandoned building supply warehouse for the upcoming Iraqi elections. (The Detroit News)

Noticed by foreign policy / milblog The Adventures of Chester, MEMRI has posted part 3 of their series on the Iraqi elections: The Islamist and Terrorist Threats.

The approaching elections in Iraq have pitched against each other the most senior Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and Osama bin Laden. Al-Sistani has called on his followers to vote en masse and decreed that those who boycott the elections are "infidels." His picture appears on election placards in most Iraqi provinces indicating his support for the elections. In a video aired on Al-Jazeera TV,in what appears to be a response to al-Sistani, Osama bin Laden warned against the participation in elections: "Anyone who participates in these elections … has committed apostasy against Allah." [...]

Election workers and U.S.-trained security troops have become Iraq's most hunted, facing slaughter by insurgents out to ruin this month's landmark vote. But in less volatile swaths of the country's south, the long oppressed Shiite Muslim majority is readying to seize power in what's expected to be largely peaceful balloting. In the predominantly Shiite city of Nasiriyah, Italian troops controlling the sector said Monday they were confident they'll escape election day bloodshed. Nonetheless, they've been training Iraqi security forces to repel any attacks, highlighting the role of U.S. coalition partners in preparing for the elections. (AP)

Brazen Assaults Overshadow Iraq Elections. Iraqi insurgents have kidnapped a Catholic archbishop and targeted security forces in a series of brazen assaults that killed more than 20 people. A suicide bomber attacked US Marines in Ramadi, where insurgents also beheaded two Shiite Muslims. (

Thirteen years ago, a coalition of Kurdish parties held elections in northern Iraq amid the rubble of 4,000 villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein's army. Young and old queued for hours to vote for a Kurdish parliament in a poll judged free and fair by international monitors. Yet, after 14 years of self-rule, in which the Kurds have rebuilt their villages and modernised their cities, there is little enthusiasm for Iraq-wide elections only two weeks away. (Financial Times)

Editorial from Lufkin Daily News: That insurgents are stepping up the violence in an attempt to destroy or negate Iraq's national elections is no surprise. Nor is it an excuse for delaying those elections. President Bush and Iraqi leaders are right to insist they be held as planned. As Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer pointed out in an Associated Press story Monday, even if the elections were postponed for six months, there's no guarantee the violence would wane. The insurgents might lay down for two or three months, then carry out attacks again,'' he said.

John Catalinotto: IRAQ: Sham elections in deep trouble. Former CIA "asset" and current Iraqi "Premier" Iyad Allawi telephoned US President George Bush on January 3 to discuss problems about holding the January 30 national election in Iraq. The big question was whether the upsurge in both armed and popular resistance would force them to postpone the elections. The official answer was still "no", but it was obvious the elections were headed for at least as big a disaster as the US occupation in general. (Green Left Weekly)

Highlights of the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections: What's at stake. Who's eligible. Who's running. How long will the government rule. (AP)

A surprisingly low number of Iraqis turned out on Monday in the Detroit area -- home to one of the largest concentrations of Arabs outside the Middle East -- to register to vote in the upcoming election in their homeland. (Reuters)

Two-thirds of registered voters in the Iraqi capital say they will cast their ballots in the Jan. 30 election despite the threat of violence, an independent Iraqi newspaper survey found Monday. (ABC News)

Once exiled and stripped of his Iraqi citizenship, Talib Murad now sees hope in his country's new democracy. He is so eager to take part in the Jan. 30 election for an Iraqi national assembly that he has set up his own polling station after learning that Egypt, where he lives, is not one of the 14 countries designated for voting by expatriate Iraqis. (AP)

Germany won't budge from its refusal to send troops to Iraq, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Monday when asked if successful elections and a new government would alter his country's stance. (Jerusalem Post)

Kamran Karadaghi: Despite a likely Sunni boycott, Iraq's divisions are overstated Recent declarations by representatives of mainstream Sunni Arab groups in Iraq clearly reflect the dilemma they are facing: Should they participate in the Jan. 30 elections or not? The latest statement reflecting this dilemma came from the largest Sunni group, the moderate Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), which represents the Iraqi branch of the wider Muslim Brotherhood movement in the Arab world. Ammar Wajeeh, a member of the IIP political bureau, was quoted on Jan. 14 in the London-based Al-Hayat daily as saying that his party would not bar its members and supporters from voting, and would be free to vote for any list of candidates they chose - despite the fact that IIP had decided to "withdraw" from the elections. (The Daily Star [Lebanon])

Monday, January 17, 2005

Insurgents bent on sabotaging Iraq's Jan. 30 elections unleashed mortars and bombs and opened fire in several cities Monday, killing at least 22 policemen and soldiers and targeting polling stations. [...] Polling stations came under fire in two other cities. [...] A survey in the independent al-Mada newspaper found two-thirds of registered voters in Baghdad intending to cast their ballots. [...] (Reuters)

A stern-faced Saddam Hussein in a Western suit and hat was the defining image of the dictator's final years in power. Today, an old, white-bearded cleric in a black turban and robe is the face of Iraq. The phenomenal contrast of those two images speaks volumes about the transformation of this nation since Saddam's ouster 21 months ago. The brutal, secular dictator is gone. Now religion has taken center stage in Iraqi politics, and a landmark election in less than two weeks has brought the country's powerful Shiite clergy to the forefront. (AP)

Despite the continuing escalation of violence here, Iraqi officials insist the country’s first-ever general assembly elections remain on schedule, even if preparations have fallen well off track in many areas where rebels have caused grave disruptions. While most Iraqis are consumed with the ever-present tasks of keeping their families safe, finding fuel for their cars and looking for jobs, there is much talk around Baghdad of the polls set for January 30. On Election Day, among eligible Iraqis who do not cast ballots, it will be hard to differentiate between those holding off for any of various reasons. [...] But today, throughout the Baghdad area, there are plenty of Iraqis willing to express why they will or will not be voting later this month. (The NewStandard)

Financial Times editorial: Delaying Iraq poll will solve nothing.

Blog Belmont Club comments on The Battle of the Ballot Box. Two briefings provided by the Department of Defense have clearly indicated that Mosul is going to be the chief battleground between US forces and the anti-Iraqi forces attempting to prevent Iraqi lections from taking place on January 30. [...]

Iraqi blogger Omar of Iraq The Model posts a photo of Kirkuk locals at a voter registration office, and in general discusses the upcoming elections: campaign posters covering Baghdad, security plans, and more.

U.N. did everything it could

With less than two weeks left before Iraq’s elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the United Nations had fulfilled its role as technical adviser, and he appealed to the Government to make the vote as inclusive as possible despite the “far from ideal” situation of violence prevailing in the country.

“Let me say that as far as we are concerned, all the technical preparations are ready,” Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on his return from visiting the tsunami-devastated countries of southeast Asia.

“We have done everything that we need to do to help the elections go forward. Obviously the situation is far from ideal,” he added, calling the electoral assistance on the ground from the UN team and other international bodies “a really heroic job.”

(UN News)

Exiled Iraqis began registering to vote Monday in their homeland's first independent election in nearly 50 years, with dozens arriving at polling stations from Australia to Britain - and many expressing confusion at the process. Iraqis can vote abroad in 14 countries and there is a seven-day registration period that ends Jan. 23. Voting will begin Jan. 28 and continue until the Jan. 30 election in Iraq. (AP)

The top US military official in Iraq predicted the landmark January 30 general elections would be disrupted by insurgent attacks, and the level of violence would continue unabated even after the polls. "We and the Iraqi Security Forces will do everything in our power to ensure that the average Iraqi can go out and vote safely. Is there going to be violence on Election Day? There is," General George W. Casey, commanding general of the US-dominated multinational forces in Iraq. (AFP via

A new poll shows Iraqis overwhelmingly support the country's Jan. 30 national assembly election. The poll, conducted in early January, shows that more than 90 percent of Iraqis believe it is important to vote in the election. A total of 82.9 percent said it was "very important," and 9.4 percent said it was "somewhat important." (US Dept. of Defense)

[a story Iraq Elections newswire reported on over a week ago] Anxious Iraqis Are Leaving Before Elections. Some Plan to Wait Out Vote Abroad; 'I Will Not Stay in Baghdad,' Commissioner Says. (Washington Post)

Iraqi Elections 2005. A Zinda Magazine Elections Special.

the United Nations envoy to the country has said that the impending Iraqi elections, scheduled to take place at the end of this month, must be as inclusive as possible. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi called for greater efforts to reach out to Arab nationalists, especially the Sunni Muslims who have "voiced reservations" about the polling process. Mr Qazi made his comments in Damascus following a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara. (4 National News [Northern Ireland])

An Iraqi Turkmen party Thursday threatened to boycott the January 30 elections in the conflict-torn country unless Kurds in northern Iraq put an end to "games" to influence the outcome of the vote in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city which both communities claim. "We will be forced to reconsider our decision to participate in the elections... if the election structure and arrangements are continously tinkered with," a statement issued by the Ankara office of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) said. (AFP via Kurdistan Observer)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Gunmen in police uniform on Sunday ambushed a car carrying a prominent female Shiite candidate in this month's general election, but she escaped injury when her bodyguards returned fire, one of her aides said. Salama al-Khafaji was traveling in central Baghdad when gunmen opened fire about 1 p.m. from a car and a motorcycle, according to the aide, Sheik Fateh Kashf al-Ghataa, who riding with her. Their security guards returned fire and the gunmen fled. (AP)

Unable to deliver on its goal of bringing democracy to Iraq through the 30 January elections, the US has gone into damage-control mode to lower expectations for the vote. With fears for a low voter turnout among Sunni Arab Iraqis due to a boycott and intimidation, the administration no longer touts the elections as a catalyst to spread democracy across the Arab world. (Al Jazeera)

Lists containing the names of millions of registered Iraqi voters have been printed and are en route to elections officials here, bringing the country logistically at least to the brink of national balloting on Jan. 30., the chief United Nations elections official, Carlos Valenzuela, said today. The lists are still not final: they will be posted at hundreds of district offices around the country, where people whose names are missing can petition to be included, and the validity of names on the list can be challenged, for example, because a registered voter has died or has moved away. (New York Times)

Time Magazine: Can Iraq's Election Be Saved? As Iraqis prepare for a democratic vote, the U.S. is still struggling to prevent insurgents from destroying it.

Iraqi expatriates have been gathering and learning the process of how to vote when registration begins tomorrow for the Out-of-Country Voting program. About 70 Kurds gathered yesterday at the Salahadeen Center of Nashville to attend a seminar where they were told the rules and given maps to the registration site. (WVLT Volunteer TV [Knoxville, TN])

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar al-Zibari has stressed that holding the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 has reached a point of no return, Egypt's Arabic-language daily al-Ahram reported on Sunday. Zibari said in an interview with the daily that any change of the election date would mean Iraq and democracy have given in to terrorist acts. In the past, the Iraqi people suffered from isolation but now they will never accept to be marginalized, the minister said. (XINHUA online)

Supporters of radical Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr demonstrated for the second-day running to demand better living conditions, a rare display of popular interest in an electoral campaign which has so far been stifled by relentless violence. (

People in Iraq want to vote in the elections for the country's national assembly on Jan. 30, the commander of coalition forces in Ninewa province said at a news conference today. Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, Task Force Olympia commander, said anecdotal evidence suggests Iraqis in Mosul "have the desire to vote. But they don't yet know how, or the mechanisms. We've got to work on that." (US Dept. of Defense)

Two articles on the Iraqi elections security plan unveiled today: from AFP and from AP.
[unfortunately both are short on details, and include lots of boilerplate violence updates. If any reader spots an article with more details, please email the editor at]

The top Islamic scholar of the highest Sunni institute called on Iraqis to participate in the Jan. 30 elections, a Saudi newspaper reported Saturday. The official al-Riyadh daily quoted Sheikh Mohammad Tantawi, the head of the Cairo-based al-Azhar, as saying all Iraqis should take part in the general elections in order to form a legitimate government and retrieve Iraqi sovereignty and independence. (UPI via Washington Times)

[refresh of earlier article] Iraqis abroad should use the facilities provided for voting in the Jan. 30 elections as democratic rule is the best answer to the resistance, the Iraqi politician Adnan Pachachi said yesterday. Pachachi spoke to about 250 Iraqi residents of Jordan in an Amman hotel where he was campaigning for his Independent Democrats Party, which has fielded a slate of 76 candidates for the elections. He was accompanied by Iraqi Planning Minister Mahdi Al-Hafidh, who is a member of the party. (

And some commentary:

Daily Kos has a thread on Iraq's stealth election

The White House is looking ahead to an even more closely watched exercise in democracy, the elections in Iraq scheduled for the end of January. Both votes raise the same question: Is holding an election the benchmark of democracy? The answer depends on whether the election yields a government that is legitimate in the eyes of the majority of the people. The best measure of legitimacy is competitiveness and voter participation. Does an election offer real choice? And how many voters come to the polls? On both counts, the picture in the occupied territories is a mixed one - and even more so in Iraq. (