US soldiers patrol the
streets in Baghdad 28 January 2005. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
US soldiers from
Charlie company 1-9 patrol the streets in the Sheikh Maaruf district of
Baghdad 28 January 2005. Insurgents set off a car bomb and attacked voting
stations and security forces in several Iraqi cities today, killing at
least six people as campaigning for the election wrapped up and voters
began casting their ballots abroad. (Xinhua/AFP Photo/Christophe
by Ali Salih Jubouri, Jamal Hashim
Iraq, Jan. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- With only one day to go before the landmark
elections, tension prevailed Saturday in Iraq's northern Salahaldin province,
whose capital Tikrit is hometown to former Iraqi President Saddam
"Iraqi security forces have taken control of
election centers in cities across the governorate and banned people from
approaching the centers," said Abdullah Hussien Jibbara, deputy governor of
National Guards fanned out on the main
roads with an extended curfew imposed on most cities from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
(1600 to 0300 GMT).
In spite of all these measures and
precautions, there has been an increase in insurgent attacks against voting
centers in the past days in the province, a Sunni
More than 15 schools designated as voting
centers in the area were bombed, including three by car bombs in Tikrit and
The headquarters of the Independent Electoral
Commission in Tikrit, a UN-sponsored body responsible for holding the elections,
was also hit by three mortar rounds.
commission is facing a crisis in providing enough employees for the voting
centers after more than half of the staff in the province resigned due to the
deteriorating security situation and low payment.
commission was then forced to decrease the number of voting centers from 200 to
about 132, which would consequently discourage the voters.
"The centers are either too far for them to reach or considered not very well
secured," said a source in the commission, who preferred not to mention his
"Things could be worse when considering that there is
a lack of political and patriotic motive for participating in the elections in
this governorate," he added.
Despite the campaign
advertisements aired by satellite channels and pamphlets handed out by US
forces, it is expected that the turnout may not exceed 40 percent in the
"We expect the participation to stand
between 25 and 40 percent," Jibara told Xinhua, adding that likely voters come
mainly from distant areas in the governorate populated with Shiites, Turkmen or
He attributed the possible low turnout in major
cities to the lack of security and measures taken by Paul Bremer, former US
administrator in Iraq, who dissolved the former Iraqi army and dismissed the
Baath Party members from governmental institutions and
In an effort to boost the turnout, interim
Iraqi President Ghazi Yawer has recently visited the governorate and met with
heads of tribes, trying to persuade them to participate in the political process
so that the Sunni Arabs would not be marginalized.
Minister Ayad Allawi also assured the governorate of solving all the problems to
win support. The province was the only governorate that Allawi has visited twice
in less than two weeks.
"When I return to my work and get
the first payment, my family has the hope of a decent living," said Abdul Razaq
Mohamed, a former officer in the army reinstated recently.
"If the fear is gone and I am convinced by the candidates, then I will be the
first to go to the voting center even if it is in the western desert," he