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Many Displaced Iraqi Christians 'Unable To Vote'

An electoral commission employee locks a ballot box at an Iraqi election center. (2009 file photo)
An electoral commission employee locks a ballot box at an Iraqi election center. (2009 file photo)
BAGHDAD -- Hundreds of displaced Christians in northern Iraq were unable to vote in the parliamentary elections because they were unregistered, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Nisan Merza, director of the Assyrian Cultural Center and a candidate on the Assyrian Democratic Movement's list, told RFI that crowds of Christians who fled to the Kurdish province of Duhok following attacks on their community in Mosul went to polling centers on March 7 but discovered their names were not on voter lists.

The office of the election supervisor in Duhok told Merza on March 11 that the Christians arrived in the city shortly before the elections and there was no time to add their names to the voting registers.

Merza said that Iraqi Christian participation in the elections was relatively low in general. He said many Christian voters stayed home out of fear of violence, especially in Baghdad and other troubled areas. Thirty-eight people were reported killed in separate incidents, mostly in Baghdad, on the day of the elections.

But Merza said turnout was actually high among Iraqi Christian expatriates in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, even higher than in the 2005 elections.

The election law allocates five seats in the national parliament for Iraq's Christian community.

Henry Sarkis, a member of the National Assyrian Party, told RFI that the threshold for a Christian party to win a seat is 10,000 votes. But he said many Christians in Nineveh Province voted for non-Christian lists, especially the secular-nationalist Iraqiya list of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, there are 500,000-700,000 Christians in Iraq, down from an estimated 800,000-1.2 million before the 2003 war.