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  • Thursday, December 30, 2004

    Fewer than 1% of Iraqis register to vote

    60,000 people register to vote in Iraq! The Iraq Solidarity Campaign (UK), 30.12.2004 13:01 Fewer than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists, whilst for the overseas voting, registration in most parts has not yet even started.

    "What they are worried about are suicide bombers and intimidation." That fear is not isolated to Fallujah. Residents of Baghdad also are saying they are not sure whether they are willing to risk their lives to cast their ballots, expressing fears that polling stations will be targeted. Others swear they will not be deterred. One of those is the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, the group set up by the United Nations to organize the election. "They can't hit every single polling station," said Farid Ayar, sitting in his tiny office in the heavily protected green zone. "For me, a man who suffered under Saddam, I feel that this election is a turning point to create a new Iraq," he said. "I am over 60, and I never voted in my life, so I find this a challenge — to go once in my life to vote." But Mr. Ayar, like everyone in Iraq, recognizes that security is a major issue. He rarely goes into the city streets anymore, especially because his face has become well-known after months of promoting the election in national and international news outlets. Because there is no reliable census information, voter lists have been put together based on U.N. food-rationing lists from the era of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, with everyone on those lists being sent a form to verify its accuracy. But only 60,000 to 70,000 people in a country of about 25 million have responded — about .25 percent — and authorities are now looking for other ways to qualify citizens to vote. "Iraqis want democracy, but they know if they reach out, they will get shot," said a U.S. official in Baghdad who declined to be identified.

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