Interview: Iraq elections will be tough: spokesman

"It is a matter of saving Iraq from dipping into a major constitutional crisis by holding the elections on Jan. 30 as planned," Fareed Ayar, spokesman of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said Tuesday.

As the war-scarred country braces for the first elections after the Iraq War, the technical electoral body, assigned with a mission to organize the polls, is running against time to make the elections smooth.

The only way to serve the Iraqi people and the country is "to try our best to bring forward all the necessary requirements for the process," Ayar said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.


Iraq's interim constitution sets the end of January as the legal deadline for Iraqis to elect a 275-seat National Assembly that will draft a constitution and appoint a government to lead the country to general elections at the end of the year.

"We have exerted every effort to tell Iraqi people what the elections are all about," Ayar said. "Large numbers of Iraqis are convinced that would lead the country to more chaos and problems."

Casting a grim look at the possibility of failing to hold the elections on time, he said, he tried to paint a rosy picture envisioned by both Iraqi interim government and the United States.

"Sticking to the timetable would lead Iraq to the right and safe track as well as a better future," he said.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told a news conference on Tuesday that his government was reaching out to tribal and religious leaders in some of Iraq's volatile regions in efforts to get them to take part in the vote.

But luring voters to the polls is no easy task in places like Baghdad, Mosul and Samarra, which have witnessed frequent shoot-outs and gunbattles between insurgents and Iraqi-US forces.

Peace and security top the list of prayers among millions of Iraqis today. Lacking of security remains a primary concern for both voters and Ayar's teammates.

However, as calls for a delay out of security consideration pick up tempo in the run-up to elections, Ayar pointed out that "postponing the elections is kind of submitting to terrorism."

Constitutional vacuum would appear if the elections can not take place, which would give way to chaos, he said.

As a dedicated electoral organizer, Ayar said he is never intimidated by the murder of his fellow workers for putting up theelections. Three of his colleagues were dragged out of car in a central Baghdad street last December and killed in broad daylight.


Sunni clerics have called for boycotting the elections to protest the US military offensive against the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni party, has pulled out of the race due to the deteriorating security situation.

Meanwhile, the Shiite-led government, which is waging a massivepro-election campaign, is aware that a high turnout, including Sunnis, is the only way in which the vote will be considered fair and credible.

No elections in Iraq without participation of Sunnis are complete, said Ayar, noting that the elections are family affairs and everybody is expected to chip in.

"The Sunni sect is one of the major pillars of this country ...and I believe that the Sunnis should play one of the major roles in the building of this country and I wish they would take part inwriting the constitution after the elections," Ayar expressed his hope.

Cautioning Sunnis against becoming losers in a reshuffle like Maronites in Lebanon after their boycotting the elections in 1990,Ayar said he hopes Sunnis would not be left in the cold in the aftermath of a widespread withdrawal from the elections.

"I don't expect to see a scenario of Sunni marginalization," said Ayar, a former employee of the state-controlled Iraqi News Agency.

Some European countries estimate a 40 percent turnout but Ayar expects a higher rate -- 55 percent to 60 percent.

Making no mistake about it, Ayar said, elections are no panaceafor Iraq. He said withdrawal of the multi-national forces is not the immediate outcome of this elections.

"It is up to the elected government to decide if their presenceis necessary on the Iraqi soil," he said.

Source: Xinhua

People's Daily Online ---