Recovery road

"Recovery road" Continued...

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

Whatever the reason, the reduced UN presence means stepped-up participation by Iraq's interim government-something Baghdad leaders wanted all along.

Once underway, voters will choose candidates for a 275-member transitional National Assembly, for a regional assembly in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, and for governing councils in each of 18 provinces. This follows the procedures outlined in the interim constitution signed in March by the now-dissolved Iraqi Governing Council and former U.S. administrator Paul Bremer.

Organizers have bowed to security concerns in choosing proportional representation. All voters will elect the entire legislature by political party. The government will award seats according to the percentage of national vote received. Parties must fill the seats with legislators chosen from an internal party list. The procedure should lessen both intimidation and targeting of candidates by insurgents.

Structuring the elections by party, however, has led to an explosion of political activism. As many as 380 political parties have been identified. Any can register for the ballot with just 500 signatures.

The lead parties are the Iraqi National Accord, led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi; the Iraqi National Congress, led by a former U.S. favorite, Ahmad Chalabi; two Shiite Muslim religious parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; and two Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. All have representatives in the current interim government.

Once elected, a transitional national assembly will choose a president and two deputy presidents from among its own members. This "presidency council" will appoint a prime minister and other government ministers. The National Assembly will be responsible for drafting a constitution by Aug. 15, 2005, and will be able to pass laws.

Holding the timetable under daily terror threats would seem impossible-except that Iraq's interim authorities already have kept every significant deadline since their liberation. By now, the leadership is sober enough to see the elections not as an endpoint but as one more hurdle on the road to getting back their country.


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