Feature: Iraqi expatriates in Egypt flock to ballot boxes

10:52, March 08, 2010      

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by Islam Yehia

Hoping for a better future of their country, flocks of Iraqi expatriates poured into the Eastern Company Club in the neighborhood of Giza, west of Cairo, to vote for their upcoming representatives in the parliament.

Around 1.4 million Iraqi expatriates started casting their votes on Friday in several countries to elect a 325-seat Council of Representatives out of some 6,300 candidates, who come from 12 major coalitions of parties and dozens of other political entities. The majority of the elected coalitions will form the coming government.

Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) set 119 polling stations in 16 countries around the world, mostly in the Middle East.

Egypt, a host of thousands of Iraqis, has dedicated six voting stations for Iraqis nationwide.

"Many Iraqis participated in the voting process on the first day. On the second day, the participation was a bit weaker. We expect the last day to witness more participation...This calls for optimism and indicates their desire in a better future for their country," Sawsan El-Saleh, an IHEC legal advisor said.

Parliamentary elections in Iraq are based on the proportional representation system in which seats are distributed among parties according to the number of votes they get in each province. The number of parliament seats allocated for each province is set according to its population density, one seat for each 100,000 people.

All elections held in Iraq were based on electoral registers derived from ration cards, a subsidy system that has been created since Saddam Hussein was in power.

In 2005 elections, the number of allocated seats varied from major provinces to small ones. Baghdad snatched 59 seats while other provinces like Maysan and Dahouk got seven seats only.

The 2010 parliamentary elections were previously slated for Jan. 21, but were then postponed to Mar. 7 due to delay in passing the elections law.

Ali El-Kleedar, an Iraqi political analyst, said the rate of vote participation outside Iraq was "good and acceptable. This gives indications that the participation inside the country will also be good, even though it might be slightly affected by fears of terrorist operations."

"I believe this year's elections represent a turning point that could either take Iraq to a new phase of democracy or to take it back to zone zero. Non-religious and non-sectarian parties and blocs will have better chances to win," Kleedar said.

The participation of Iraqi women in this year's parliamentary elections was a remarkable sign for a forthcoming change after the 2005 elections witnessed the abstention of many Iraqi women from voting.

"Women had strong participation in the elections. The Iraqi women are not abstaining from voting. They are the ones who encourage their families to vote. It is the future of their country," Sawsan El-Saleh said.

"I came to the polling station with all members of my family to vote. It is a service for our country," Halima Abdel Jabbar, 31, said.

Iraqis hope the 2010 elections, the second since US-led invasion, will be a good chance for making a change in the war- torn country which had suffered a lot from sectarian violence.

"I hope the 2014 elections will be better after Iraqis set up the bases for democracy and completely uproot sectarianism," Kleedar said.

The 2010 elections abroad also witnessed a strong presence for local and International observers. IHEC and Arab League observers were attending along with representatives of international and Egyptian watchdogs and NGOs.

"The participation of civil society was strong... observers from the Electoral Commission, the Arab League, candidates and foreign organizations were present," Maged Hussein, a voting station director said.

Source: Xinhua
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