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Elections: A test for Iraqis
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-28 07:08:09

    BAGHDAD, Jan. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The Iraqi elections slated for Sunday are considered a test for all Iraqis, whether they will take part in or boycott them.

    In the past few weeks, fear has been running high in the war-battered country that the elections might turn out to be a "time bomb" that would trigger widespread strife as violence in the run-up to the polls are soaring.

    The elections will pose a grave test for the Iraqi interim government, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds as loyalists of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and armed Islamic extremists have threaten to spare no effort to derail the voting, said analysts.

    To fend off a tide of bloodshed on the election day, the US forces, which have occupied Iraq since Saddam was toppled in April 2003, are beefing up efforts in tightening security.

    US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently announced that US forces would be reinforced to 173,000 personnel to guarantee the smooth-going of the elections, considered by Washington as a crucial beginning toward a "democratic" Iraq and potentially the first step toward home for US troops.

    Sunday's parliamentary elections will yield a 275-member National Assembly, which will choose a transitional government and work out a permanent constitution put for a national referendum by Oct. 15.

    A new government and parliament will be elected through another ballot by the end of this year under guidance of the constitution.

    The Iraqi interim government headed by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has declared to close borders and the Baghdad International Airport from Jan. 29 to 31 in a bid to curb violence.

    Some 100,000 Iraqi policemen and National Guards are also to be deployed around the voting centers against possible insurgent attacks and no vehicle will be allowed to near the centers on theelection day in an effort to foil car bombings.

    However, it remains doubtful that the poorly-armed and insufficiently-trained Iraqi security forces could shoulder the responsibility of imposing law and order in a volatile situation embedded with blasts, kidnappings and beheadings.

    Meanwhile, there are strong voices for postponing the elections while the interim government and Washington insist on going ahead on time.

    The Association of Muslim Scholars, which was founded last yearand becomes an influential religious reference for the Sunnis, has called for boycotting the elections unless a timetable for the withdrawal of the US occupation forces is announced.

    The Islamic Party, another powerful Sunni group, also decided to quit the elections citing deteriorating situation.

    The call for boycotting the elections has raised fears that Sunnis will be alienated in Iraq's new political order.

    As for the Shiites who make up of about 60 percent of the population and are poised to garner huge power through theelections, a high turnout at the polls is anticipated although waves of violence have cast a pall on the voting.

    Iraq's revered Shiite cleric Great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has urged Shiites to participate in the election, terming it as areligious duty.

    The Shiite electoral list is considered the most powerful among all the lists and expected to win the ballots in the southern governorates which are traditionally Shiite strongholds.

    The Kurds, who have announced a unified Kurdish list, deem the elections as a step to have their own say in the parliament which is responsible for writing the permanent constitution.

    The Kurds, who have enjoyed de facto autonomy in northern Iraqsince 1991, are looking forward to enshrining the self-ruling status in the permanent constitution after the polls.

    Attacks have dwindled during the past week although some polling stations and police stations were hit. But the US military warned that it is just calm before a storm and that the insurgents bent on sabotaging the elections are saving up for spectacular scenarios.

    However, Washington and the Iraqi interim government are resolved to hold the elections on Sunday as scheduled.

    The international conference on Iraq held in November 2004 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh and the foreign ministers meeting of Iraq's neighboring countries held earlier this month in Jordan also expressed support for the Jan. 30 elections.Enditem

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