Iraqis may have staggered elections
Iraq may modify its election plan by extending its voting over two or three
weeks to give people more time to vote next month, officials said on Wednesday
as suicide bombers and gunmen again struck Sunni Muslim towns north and west of
The suggestion was made by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who told
a Swiss newspaper this week in response to remarks by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
that violence made the January vote very difficult.
"One can imagine
elections spread out over 15 or 20 days, with the dates differing according to
the provinces," Allawi was quoted as saying.
Allawi's proposal also stems
from the fact that there are not enough Iraqi security forces to provide
protection on the same day to some 9,000 polling stations.
Ministry, which with its US military allies faces a massive task to provide
security at thousands of polling stations on Jan. 30, endorsed Allawi's idea on
Wednesday, saying voting over several days could reduce lines in the
"If people have more than one day to vote, then there will be
shorter lines and thus there will be less danger and less victims if something
bad happen, although we have taken the necessary measures to secure the voting
process," said Sabah Khazim, an Interior Ministry spokesman.
"It is an
excellent idea and it will make it more easier for the Interior Ministry
regarding securing the elections," he said.
But Iraq's Independent Electoral
Commission, which has final say over the scheduled Jan. 30 vote, said it was
still trying to confirm Allawi's comment and insisted there had been no official
change in the way voting will be held.
The handling of the
vote has become the central issue in Iraq recently, with insurgents threatening
to attack polling stations.
An insurgency among the 20-percent Sunni Arab
minority which dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein has raised the threat of
violence against voters. Some leading Sunnis have urged a delay in the election
and others have called for a boycott.
The 60-percent Shiite Muslim majority,
which accounts for the bulk of the population in British-controlled southern
Iraq, is keen to vote to consolidate its new strength. Iraqi authorities and
Washington are also determined the polls take place on time.
Iraqis are to
elect 275 members of a national assembly as well as local councils. Iraqi Kurds
will also pick the 111 members of their autonomous parliament.
More than 200
parties, groups or individuals have been approved to run.
widespread international support for the election to choose a successor to the
late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, the Iraqi elections have been
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday questioned the
feasibility of holding elections there under what he called foreign
The US military has said it will keep its distance from voting
A month ago, the US launched massive assaults
on the Sunni city of Falluja to break the rebels before the election. While it
reportedly killed up to 1,600 of them and deprived them of a major base, attacks
continue on a daily basis.
Nearby Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, was again
in turmoil on Wednesday, with masked gunmen roaming streets and battling US
troops, and two Iraqis were killed in shooting after a suicide bomber had
attacked a US military checkpoint, witnesses and a hospital official
Another three Iraqis were killed on Wednesday when a suicide car bomber
attacked a US convoy in the northern city of Samarra, a local police official
In a separate incident there, an Iraqi policeman was killed when
insurgents opened fire on US soldiers in the town that the Iraqi interim
government said it had seized from guerrillas after a major offensive in early