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Iraqi Plan To Draw Up Voter Rolls Under Scrutiny

BAGHDAD -- Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians in Iraq have warned that creating voter rolls in the country's 18 provinces based on ration cards is an unreliable method that can be manipulated, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Mahmud Othman, a member of the Kurdish parliamentary bloc, told RFI that "the voter rolls prepared according to ration cards [issued by the Trade Ministry] show absurd discrepancies with some provinces recording zero increase in their population over the past four or five years, whereas others have recorded increases of up to 60 percent in the number of their inhabitants."

The new methodology for measuring the population and thereby distributing the number of seats in the next parliament was agreed to in parliament on November 23, although hurdles continue to threaten the vote.

Othman added that the decision to choose this method "might well be by design to reduce the number of Kurdish seats" in the next parliament.

Dhafir al-Ani, the leader of the Sunni Al-Tawafuq bloc, told RFI that "the figures supplied by the Trade Ministry are not 100 percent reliable with considerable numbers registered illegally."

Al-Ani said such irregularities "could be politically motivated."

Deputy Trade Minister Thuwaiba Zangana told RFI that many Iraqis have not bothered to register with the ministry for ration cards because they can now afford to buy goods themselves, especially in the more prosperous autonomous Kurdish region.

She cited the situation in the Suleimaniyah Province, saying "it has an estimated population of 2 million but the ministry's database shows only 1.6 million ration cards."

The director of the Central Bureau of Statistics and Information Technology, Mahdi al-Allaq, told RFI that the "controversy would be irrelevant had the national census been held this year as originally planned."

Al-Allaq stressed that despite the acknowledged flaws and shortcomings, the ration-card system remains the best available means to determine voter rolls as they are annually updated.