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Insecurity hinders election recruitment

It’s too dangerous to even distribute applications in one region of the country to people who want to be on a new independent electoral commission being created by the United Nations, an election worker said in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad on Tuesday. In five of 18 governorates around Iraq, all in the “Sunni Triangle” region, applications will be in US administration offices, but they won't be available to the public, said the election worker, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Sunni Triangle is an area of the country mostly west of Baghdad that remains largely loyal to former president Saddam Hussein. It includes Fallujah, where US forces are battling Iraqi insurgents in which more than 100 US Marines and up to 700 Iraqis have been killed. UN workers expect the new eight-member commission to be the first step on the road to holding elections in January 2005. The commission is expected to make the policies and regulations that will define the future election and to register voters, among other things. “At five sites, the security does not permit access,” the worker told IRIN. “Ideally, I would hope the security situation in the country would change tomorrow. (But) nobody is capable of securing this process but the Iraqis themselves.” Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a major political figure in Iraq for the Shi'ite Muslim majority, in January insisted elections must be held before 30 June, when sovereignty is to be handed back to Iraqis. He later agreed to abide by a UN decision on election timing. A UN team in February said an election could not be held without eight months of preparation. After helping to organise a January 2005 vote to elect a national assembly and a Kurdish national assembly, the UN expects to hold a referendum vote by October 2005 on a new Iraqi constitution and a full national election by December 2005, the worker said. “If this is going to be possible, if this is going to be feasible, it has to be done now. We have to do this with lightning speed,” the worker stressed. "But this process has been designed to allow Iraqis to exercise their right to be involved." An estimated 120,000 poll workers could be hired to run the January elections, the worker said. Political leader Hamid Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party, said politicians were more worried about who would govern the country after 30 June. Under the transitional administrative law, the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) is expected to stop its work at the end of June. Those on the IGC, including Bayati's boss, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, are calling for a UN Security Council resolution to give some legitimacy to whatever governing body is working after the handover, Bayati said. "If we don't have a government, we will be in limbo," Bayati said. "Such a resolution should be in place for a month at least." In the meantime, those who want to be new election commissioners must submit their names by 15 May, either at US administration offices around Iraq or by e-mail, the election worker said. (www.electionsiraq.org) An election team will make sure applicants meet basic criteria - applicants have to be over 30, not hold any other public post and not be a member of the former Baath Party, or be willing to renounce their Baath Party affiliation. IGC members will rank a short list of names after people are interviewed by the election team, according to the worker. US administrator Paul Bremer will take the IGC's recommendations and appoint the people, the worker said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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