|Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar waves a
stained blue finger, used to identify those who have already voted, after
casting his ballot in the capital Baghdad January 30, 2005. (Photo:
|Iraqi Hussein Al-Khatat casts his ballot at
a polling station in Ottawa, January 29, 2005. Iraqis, who can vote in
their national elections in three different Canadian cities, are electing
a 275-member National Assembly, which will draft Iraq 's Constitution.
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
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
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
GLIMPSE AT MAJOR CITIES ON ELECTION
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
Thousands of Iraqis filed in the seven stations
around the polling center in Kadhimiya, a Shiite-populated neighborhood in
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
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,
In a latest attack, US operation centers in Baquba,
some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, was attacked. There was no word on
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