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Iraq: Election Official On Expat Voting Set Up


http://gdb.rferl.org/8A40DBEF-02CE-4ECF-AA59-55D8773F0084_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/8A40DBEF-02CE-4ECF-AA59-55D8773F0084_mw800_mh600.jpg Voters during the referendum on the constitution (epa) RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed Umar Hasan Allawi, spokesman for the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission in Damascus, on 16 November about preparations for expatriate voting in the 15 December elections.

Allawi: This morning, our office located in Al-Mazza quarter of Damascus began its work. A team has arrived from the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission to inspect and administer the Iraqi elections in Syria. This has happened after the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the governments of Syria and Iraq. In the document, the Syrian authorities have vowed to provide assistance and fully facilitate in the process [of Iraqi elections].
In the last general elections in January, more than 16,500 Iraqis registered to vote in Syria, including Iraqis residing in Lebanon. The turnout was over 90 percent that time.


RFI: The Memorandum of Understanding that regulates the activity of the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission [within Syria] was signed on 8 November. Allawi confirms that the location of polling centers will be determined within the coming days and their number has not yet been [decided]. The locations of the polling centers will be chosen carefully so that they reflect the biggest concentration of Iraqis in Syria.

Allawi: The question of conducting the elections in governorates [outside Damascus] will depend on the estimates made by the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission. For the time being we have no indications that it will be necessary to conduct the elections in the governorates of Syria. Of course, a group from the media and education departments [at the Damascus office of the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission] will visit Iraqis living in the governorates [outside Damascus] to discuss with them the possible ways to facilitate their coming to Damascus [to cast their ballots].

RFI: This time, the elections will be administered by Iraqi experts, not by an international body as it was the last time [in January 2005 elections]. What kind of turnout is expected, especially considering that many Iraqis in Syria are Sunni Arabs whose candidates are taking part in the elections this time, unlike the previous time?

Allawi: Before the elections, we will maintain the same distance between all Iraqi political movements and entities. Of course, we will hold meetings with the Iraqi community with respect to its cultural, religious, and political plurality. We only know an estimated number of Iraqis resident in Syria but we hope that all of them will express their opinions by coming to the ballot boxes.

RFI: In the last general elections in January, more than 16,500 Iraqis registered to vote in Syria, including Iraqis residing in Lebanon. The turnout was over 90 percent that time. Allawi says that the location of polling centers will not be the same as in the January elections. That time, polling centers were set up in schools provided by the Syrian government as the term of elections coincided with schools' midterm vacations. But this will not be the case in December elections.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek)

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