01/31/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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About 65 per cent of Iraqi expats voted

"This is honestly the first time I have seen these levels of emotion and excitement among voters," says elections official.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Two Iraqis in three living abroad voted in their country's first open elections. A total of 186,619 or 65.9% made their way to different polling stations in 36 cities in 14 countries where voting was possible, this according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). A total of 280,303 people had registered out of the 1,000,000 or so who were eligible. Voting stopped at 5 pm (local time).

"We are delighted that the three days of polling went smoothly and that so many expatriate Iraqis took this historic opportunity to vote," IOM director Peter Erben told AsiaNews.

"I have worked on many post-conflict out-of-country elections but this is honestly the first time I have seen the same levels of emotion and excitement among voters," Mr Erben said. "We have had people turning up to the polls in traditional dress, people dancing in the street afterwards, and many, many people proudly holding up their inked finger as a sign of their democratic freedom".

The highest turnout was registered in Jordan where 72.9 per cent of registered voters cast their ballot in Amman. High turnouts were also registered in the United Arab Emirates (71.9 per cent), in Sweden (71.7), in Syria (71.3) and in the Netherlands (68.2). In Iran 41,033 people voted for a total of 67.4 per cent of registered voters. In Turkey 2,622 people voted (62.6 per cent).

Although lower, turnout in Great Britain (51.2 per cent) and France (59.2 per cent) was still above 50 per cent.

The heaviest turnout was registered on Saturday January 29 in almost every one of the 14 countries where absentee voting was held.

Many Iraqis living abroad did not register fearing that their friends and relatives at home might suffer retaliation. (LF)

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