Iraqis Set for Proportional Representation in Election

By Borzou Daragahi
Published June 13th 2004 in The Washington Times
BAGHDAD -- When Iraqis vote early next year, they will use a proportional representation system in which slates of candidates submitted by political parties and groups will receive seats in parliament based on the number of votes their slate receives.
    Every third name on the candidate lists must be a woman.
    For this election only, Iraqis will vote as one electoral district, allowing minorities scattered around the country by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ethnic campaigns against Kurds and other minorities to increase their power.
    "Because of policies of previous regime there are a lot of communities that have been broken and dispersed around Iraq," U.N. elections chief Carina Perelli said while briefing reporters on the election that is to be held before the end of January.
    "These communities of interests, by using a national district, they will be able to accumulate their votes," she said.
    The electoral commission's biggest challenge will be to ensure the security of those casting their votes. Iraq has been shaken by a seemingly endless string of violence directed at the U.S.-led occupation authority and its Iraqi partners.
    Miss Perelli, a veteran of the elections in violence-scarred East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone, said a transparent, inclusive electoral process could win over the people.
    "Without the people you don't have elections," she said. "With the people, even under harsh security conditions, you have elections."
    Ahmad Mokhtar, the Trade Ministry official and computer maestro who designed a database for the former U.N. oil-for-food program, criticized authorities for not moving to hold elections sooner.
    "They had the opportunity to do this before," said Mr. Mokhtar, who submitted a proposal to use his database for voter rolls late last year.
    The United Nations is using Mr. Mokhtar's database to help draw up voter registration lists.
    "We're receiving right now the preliminary results of audits, which seem to be pretty good," Miss Perelli said. "It seems to be, potentially, an extremely good source for establishing the voters' roll."
    Hamid al-Kifaey, public relations chief for the recently appointed Iraqi president, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, said the database alone would not ensure fair elections because the data are incomplete and tainted by association with Saddam's regime.
    "All members of the opposition were excluded from that database," he said. "All people whose families were executed by the regime were excluded."