By Shaalan Ahmed, Jamal Hashem, Jiang Xiaofeng
BAGHDAD, Jan. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- "It is a matter of saving Iraq from dipping into a major constitutional crisis by holding the elections on Jan. 30 as planned," Fareed Ayar, spokesman of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said Tuesday.
As the war-scarred country braces for the first
elections after the Iraq War, the technical electoral body, assigned with a
mission to organize the polls, is running against time to make the elections
The only way to serve the Iraqi people and the
country is "to try our best to bring forward all the necessary requirements for
the process," Ayar said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Baghdad's
heavily fortified Green Zone.
FORGING AHEAD WITH LIMITED TIME
Iraq's interim constitution sets the end of January
as the legal deadline for Iraqis to elect a 275-seat National Assembly that will
draft a constitution and appoint a government to lead the country to general
elections at the end of the year.
"We have exerted every effort to tell Iraqi people
what the elections are all about," Ayar said. "Large numbers of Iraqis are
convinced that would lead the country to more chaos and problems."
Casting a grim look at the possibility of failing to
hold the elections on time, he said, he tried to paint a rosy picture envisioned
by both Iraqi interim government and the United States.
"Sticking to the timetable would lead Iraq to the
right and safe track as well as a better future," he said.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told a news conference on
Tuesday that his government was reaching out to tribal and religious leaders in
some of Iraq's volatile regions in efforts to get them to take part in the vote.
But luring voters to the polls is no easy task in
places like Baghdad, Mosul and Samarra, which have witnessed frequent shoot-outs
and gunbattles between insurgents and Iraqi-US forces.
Peace and security top the list of prayers among
millions of Iraqis today. Lacking of security remains a primary concern for both
voters and Ayar's teammates.
However, as calls for a delay out of security
consideration pick up tempo in the run-up to elections, Ayar pointed out that
"postponing the elections is kind of submitting to terrorism."
Constitutional vacuum would appear if the elections
can not take place, which would give way to chaos, he said.
As a dedicated electoral organizer, Ayar said he is
never intimidated by the murder of his fellow workers for putting up
theelections. Three of his colleagues were dragged out of car in a central
Baghdad street last December and killed in broad daylight.
SUNNI PARTICIPATION IMPORTANT
Sunni clerics have called for boycotting the
elections to protest the US military offensive against the Sunni insurgent
stronghold of Fallujah. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni
party, has pulled out of the race due to the deteriorating security situation.
Meanwhile, the Shiite-led government, which is waging
a massivepro-election campaign, is aware that a high turnout, including Sunnis,
is the only way in which the vote will be considered fair and credible.
No elections in Iraq without participation of Sunnis
are complete, said Ayar, noting that the elections are family affairs and
everybody is expected to chip in.
"The Sunni sect is one of the major pillars of this
country ...and I believe that the Sunnis should play one of the major roles in
the building of this country and I wish they would take part inwriting the
constitution after the elections," Ayar expressed his hope.
Cautioning Sunnis against becoming losers in a
reshuffle like Maronites in Lebanon after their boycotting the elections in
1990,Ayar said he hopes Sunnis would not be left in the cold in the aftermath of
a widespread withdrawal from the elections.
"I don't expect to see a scenario of Sunni
marginalization," said Ayar, a former employee of the state-controlled Iraqi
Some European countries estimate a 40 percent turnout
but Ayar expects a higher rate -- 55 percent to 60 percent.
Making no mistake about it, Ayar said, elections are
no panaceafor Iraq. He said withdrawal of the multi-national forces is not the
immediate outcome of this elections.
"It is up to the elected government to decide if
their presenceis necessary on the Iraqi soil," he said. Enditem