Iraq forms election commission
By Luke Baker
June 4, 2004
Iraq has moved a step closer to
holding its first democratic elections with the naming of an
independent commission to organise the poll, due to take
place by January 31 next year if security permits.
Carina Perelli, a United Nations elections expert sent to
Iraq to oversee the process, named a seven-member
Independent Electoral Commission and a chief elections
officer who will lay the groundwork for the ballot over the
coming seven months.
Perelli called the non-political appointments, made after a
weeks-long process of consultation and interviews, "one
step further in the right direction along the road towards a
democratic, sovereign, free and peaceful Iraq".
The commission was named three days after the appointment of
an interim Iraqi government, drawn up in collaboration with
the United Nations and Washington, which will take back
sovereignty from U.S.-led authorities on June 30.
Perelli said the time available, though short, is enough to
organise the polls and said bigger concerns were security
and ensuring that Iraqis ultimately regard the elections as
"From a technical point of view, the time is sufficient
to have credible and genuine elections," said Perelli,
the director of the U.N. electoral assistance division, who
also helped prepare polls in East Timor.
U.S. authorities have assigned $260 million (142 million
pounds) to organise the elections, a sum Perelli hoped would
match costs, though she said several nations, some members
of the U.S.-led coalition and others not, had said they
would be pleased to offer support.
FREE AND FAIR POLL
Following a popular European model, Iraq's elections will be
held on the basis of proportional representation, a method
that favours small parties and should make the ballot more
Parties will be able to present a list of candidates, as few
as 12 or as many as 275 -- the number of national assembly
seats to be filled via the poll -- and seats will be
assigned on the basis of the number of votes received, going
down the list.
Perelli said that looking at Iraq's population of around 26
million and normal voter participation, a party or person
would have to win some 26-27,000 votes to earn a seat in the
As well as political parties, special interest groups will
be allowed to present lists, or candidates can run on an
individual ticket. To stand for election, a candidate must
file a 500-signature petition with the electoral commission.
On any list, every third name must be a woman to ensure that
at least 25 percent of seats in the assembly go to women, a
stipulation made in Iraq's interim constitution, agreed
earlier this year.
Voter rolls have yet to be drawn up, but Perelli said the
commission would build them by auditing Iraq's ration-card
system, a comprehensive database used to distribute food
while Iraq was under sanctions.
Troops from the 150,000-strong U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi
security forces will provide security for the poll, a huge
task as up to 30,000 voting stations will have to be set up
to enable everyone to vote.
Perelli said the United Nations would encourage the
electoral commission to ask for international observers for
the election, though the U.N., having helped organise the
poll, would not be involved in observing it.