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Iraq: Campaigning Continues As Baghdad Announces Tough Security Measures

Security on the streets will be stepped up for the elections (file photo) (epa) Campaigns by candidates for the Iraqi parliament are in full swing ahead of legislative elections scheduled for 15 December. Meanwhile, Iraq says it will enforce tough security measures to ensure that the vote take place with a minimum of violence.

Prague, 11 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- An Iraqi government-sponsored advertisement tells Iraqis that "your voice is precious." The television commercial is an attempt to increase turnout during the parliamentary elections in Iraq -- a ballot for the country's first full-term, four-year parliament since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

TV is the main platform being used to reach Iraqi voters -- both for political parties and for the government's attempts to boost turnout.
The profusion of candidates, and the likely reduction in the U.S.
military presence in Iraq during the legislators' four-year terms,
means there is a sense that this election offers real power to the

But the streets of Iraq are playing host to a colorful competition, too. Political parties paste their posters to walls. Although rallies are limited because of the country's security situation, some leaders did successfully organize gatherings of their supporters: A top Shi'ite figure on the political scene, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, managed to gather thousands of supporters for a recent election speech in Karbala. Minor groups last week in Baghdad also rallied in support of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Adil al-Lami is the chief of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq: "The commission has put regulations preventing the use of religious symbols or any symbol which helps foment sectarian or ethnic divisions or encourage hatred or violence on the logo, which will be put on the voting paper. It also prevented the use of the symbols in the election campaign, which foment sectarian or ethnic division or encourage violence and hatred among the people of the country. These are the most important principals which should be observed by all the political parties."

The government today announced stringent security measures for the election. Those measures include the closure of all borders and airports, an extension of the hours of curfew, and a ban on travel across provincial boundaries.

The Interior Ministry says the measures will take effect on 13 December -- two days ahead of the vote -- and continue until early on 17 December.

Al-Lami says most of the complaints so far about interference in campaigns have been relatively minor: "We have received complaints from a number of political entities. But in fact they are quite few and not as you imagine. If there is a violation, the political party should present a complaint through the official channels of the commission. For example, the Iraqi National List presented complaints, and the commission is now studying and investigating these complaints to take the appropriate measures to prevent any such violation and to ensure respect among political parties in the election campaigns."

Unlike January's interim poll -- the first since the U.S. invasion of 2003 that overthrew Saddam Hussein -- the 15 December vote for a full-term parliament is expected to see much of the once-dominant Sunni minority come out and vote.

Analysts say the profusion of candidates, and the likely reduction in the U.S. military presence in Iraq during the legislators' four-year terms, means there is a sense that this election offers real power to the victors.

(international agencies)

Iraqi Election Poster

Iraqi Election Poster

Click on the poster for an enlarged image.

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission issued posters in Arabic and the two dialects of Kurdish on the allocation of National Assembly seats by governorate for the 15 December National Assembly election. The poster says, "230 seats for the governorates, as well as 45 compensatory and national seats," while the corresponding map shows the breakdown of seats by governorate.

For more background on the election, click here .

For a complete archive of RFE/RL coverage, background, and analysis of the December 15, 2005, legislative elections, click here.