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Iraqi elections wrap up with high turnout
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-31 02:37:49

    BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Polling officially closed acrossIraq at 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) Sunday with a better than expected voter turnout in the landmark elections, the Independent Electoral Commission said.

    Three hours before the closure of the vote, Adel al-Lami, a member of the commission, put the turnout rate at 72 percent.

    However, electoral officials scaled down the figure at a news briefing shortly after the poll, saying 72 percent was compiled based on "estimates" and there were about 8 million Iraqis who might have voted, about 61 percent of eligible voters.

    The turnout rate was subject to change since there were still voters waiting in line who would be allowed to cast ballots, election authorities said.

    Vote count has begun at some 5,300 polling centers across the country and a final result of the elections was expected in at least 10 days.

    GLIMPSE AT MAJOR CITIES ON ELECTION DAY

    Around 13 million Iraqis, about half of the population,registered to vote in the elections, while some eligible voters did not register due to insurgent intimidation or because they were boycotting the polls.

    Thousands of Iraqis filed in the seven stations around the polling center in Kadhimiya, a Shiite-populated neighborhood in northern Baghdad.

    An organizer told Xinhua the first group of voters were received at 7:15 a.m. (0415 GMT), only 15 minutes after the poll opened, and a "very good turnout" was expected by the end of the day.

    At Mansour, another neighborhood in western Baghdad, the turnout appeared brisk despite the deaths of four people when a suicide bomber blew up his explosive-filled belt outside a polling center.

    In Shiite-dominated Basra and Najaf, large flows of voters couldbe seen.

    Despite the enthusiasm showed by the Shiite Muslims, Sunni towns witnesses voter apathy or even despise to the poll.

    In Fallujah, a Sunni city retaken after an all-out assault in last November, most residents shunned the poll, either out of fearfor reprisal or conviction that the poll was a fake.

    In former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit, the turnout was relatively low when the voting neared the end.

    The turnout was "very weak" during the first four hours and remained no more than 20 percent with a couple of hours left beforethe closing time, a source in the electoral commission told Xinhua.

    In Samarra, another Sunni flashpoint city retaken from insurgent hands last October, Taha Hussein, head of the city's local council,said Iraqis in the city would shun the elections due to thesecurity situation.

    Also, no voters were seen heading to the voting stations in cities of Haditha, Aana, Qaim and Ramadi, according to Xinhua correspondents at the scenes.

    RELENTLESS VIOLENCE TARGETING POLL, VOTERS

    In a latest attack, US operation centers in Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, was attacked. There was no word on casualtiesyet.

    Earlier, a bomb exploded targeting a car ferrying Sunni Muslimsto polling stations south of Baghdad, killing at least three and wounding several others, police said.

    Schools taken for polling centers were targeted by mortars in Baiji and Balad. A Katyusha rocket fell on a military base in Baladand an oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Baiji was blown up.

    A mortar struck a voting center in Baghdad's Shiite slum of SadrCity Sunday, killing at least four voters.

    A suicide car bomber hit a polling station in western Baghdadshortly after the beginning of the poll, killing a policeman andwounding two Iraqi soldiers and two civilians outside ZahraaSchool.

    In Ramadi, fierce clashes erupted when insurgents attacked theUS and Iraqi forces who called on the people of the city to head topolling stations to vote.

    The clashes also spread to several neighborhoods in northern,eastern and western Ramadi, witnesses said. Three voting stationsin Qaim near the Syrian border were also attacked.In Baquba, about 50 km northeast of Baghdad, explosions were heard as voters went for the poll. To the south, a bomb exploded ata polling station in central Basra.

    Dozens of people have been killed in these attacks and many morewounded.

    Al-Qaida's representative in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, US topwanted militant in the country, claimed responsibility for some ofthe attacks.

    Iraq's elections, the first since the downfall of Saddam Husseinin April 2003, kicked off at 7:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Sunday tousher in a new course of the oil-rich but violence-shatteredcountry.

    The 275-seat National Assembly will be formed by proportional representation of votes with a one-year mandate. It will choose a transitional government and draft a permanent constitution put for a national referendum by Oct. 15.

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

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