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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 05-01-30
From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>
 Elections Under the Shadow of Violence Historic Day for Iraq30 Jan 2005 10:04:00 (Last updated: 30 Jan 2005 12:36:48)
By Despina Hristopoulou
Sources: NET 105.8 - ANA - Reuters
The first multi-party elections after 50 years are taking place today in Iraq, under draconian security measures. The polls opened at 7am (local time). Approximately 100 political parties and individual candidates are participating in the process for the election of 275 members for the National Assembly. In the meantime, violence looms in every corner of the country. Many Iraqis already doubt whether the security forces will be able to protect them, since the rebel attacks are spreading panic and terror, while the threats from Al Zarqawi for more bloodshed are continuing.
Polling Stations Targeted
The insurgents seem to be making their threats for bloodshed a reality. Rebel attacks are already taking place all over the country, just a few hours after the official opening of the polls, while most of the attacks seem to focus in the capital, Baghdad.
The consistent sound of explosions is heard all around the Iraqi capital.
Six suicide and mortar attacks, resulting in the death of at least 20 people, have already been recorded from the time the polls opened, despite the tight security measures.
Three of attacks took place in polling centers in western Baghdad, while another took place in the suburb Sadr City.
A mortar attack in southern Baghdad killed at least two and mortar rounds also rained down and other cities, including Mosul, Baquba and Hilla, where one person was killed.
In the meantime, the voting centers in the Sunni town Samrra remain closed, as per Mayor Taha Hussein, due to the situation that exists in the security sector, since rebels have already warned that they will kill whoever votes in the elections.
Actually, according to AFT, the streets are deserted and no employees turned up in any of the polling stations.
Politicians Urge Citizens to Vote
One of the first to vote was the countrys Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, who voted at a polling station in the so-called Green Zone, in the centre of Baghdad. Speaking to reporters, al-Yawer said he hoped that all Iraqis would follow his example and proceed to vote.
Interim PM Iyad Allawi also voted in a Baghdad voting centre, while he declared that these elections demonstrate that the Iraqis can hold their heads high.
"This is a historic moment for Iraq, a day when Iraqis can hold their heads high because they are challenging the terrorists and starting to write their future with their own hands," he said.
Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani voted in the town Suleimaniya in northern Iraq. Actually, long queues had formed outside the polling stations in town, even before the polls opened.
United Iraqi List a Favourite
The United Iraqi List, combining parties from Iraqs long-oppressed Shiite majority, is considered the favourite in the elections. Some of the other parties participating in the lections include: the Iraqi National Congress - Ahmad Chalabi; the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq - Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; the Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq - former Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim Jaafari; the Islamic Dawa Party Iraq Organisation -Abdul Karim Anizi; the Islamic Virtue Party - Nadim Issa Jabiri; the Islamic Action Organisation - Ibrahim al-Matiri; as well as nine other Shiite and Turkmen parties and prominent Saddam-era dissenter Hussain al-Shahristani.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawis Iraqi National Accord is considered United Iraqi Lists main rival, as well as another five secular parties.
The Kurdistan Alliance List is made up of 11 Kurdish parties, while the Christian parties Assyrian Democratic Movement and Chaldean National Council have formed a coalition under the name Patriotic Rafidain Party.
The Iraqi Communist Party is also participating in the elections along with one individual candidate.
The Main Single Party Lists include: the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni Islamist) - Mohsen Abdul Hamid; the Iraqis - Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar; the Constitutional Monarchy - Al-Sharif Ali Bin Hussein; the Independent Democratic Movement - Adnan Pachachi; the Iraqi National Gathering - Hussein al-Jibouri; as well as many smaller ones.
However, many Sunni parties are boycotting the elections, claiming that it is impossible for Iraq to hold fair elections.
The pre-election campaign was quite limited, due to fear. Many candidates did not even make their names public, while the location of the various polling centers remained a secret until the last minute.
Draconian Security Measures
The Iraqi security forces, including police, the National Guard and the military, are guarding the approximately 5000 polling stations. US and British troops were ordered not to get involved in the process, so as not to give the impression that the Iraqis are voting under the threat of occupational forces.
All the country is under siege. The airport will remain closed until tonight, while the borders will reopen on Monday. A curfew has been imposed in most cities, while military vehicles and tanks are stationed all over the capital.
Many Iraqis are apprehensive with regard to whether the security forces will be able to protect them, since they cant even protect themselves from the rebels.
Translated by Vicky Ghionis
Zero Hour for Iraq