01/25/2005, 00.00
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Voting for the new Iraq in Amman

The United Nations is worried about security. Iraqis refuse to be photographed or interviewed whilst registering to vote.

Amman (AsiaNews) – Everything is ready for the 200,000 Iraqi expatriates living in Jordan since the second Gulf war to vote in the upcoming elections. Registration began on January 17 in 12 polling stations—8 in Amman and 4 in Zaraq and Irbid (northern Jordan) where most expatriates live—and ends today.

Problems of security at home and abroad persist but Iraqi voters will be able to cast their ballot on January 28-30 in their first democratic elections for the last 40 years.

Peter Erben, an official with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who heads the Out of Country Voting programme based in Jordan, warned that there will be no further extension beyond the 25 January for the registration due to technical reasons related to rechecking data and verifying the number of voters at each designated registration and polling centres.

He said that in the first few days only 188,000 of Iraqi expatriates registered in 36 designated cities around the world, 11,000 in Jordan, but this number was increasing as the deadline approached. It is expected that more than one million will register, especially in Iran, Jordan and Syria.

Speaking to AsiaNews on condition of anonymity, an Amman-based United Nations expert helping Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said: "We have been helping and preparing for these elections for the past eight months and we have completed our work and more than 5000 voting stations are now ready for the Election Day scheduled on the 30 January of this month".

"The important question," he added, "is whether the escalating security situation would allow Iraqis inside Iraq to exercise their right of voting. "

In Jordan, security measures have already been implemented and are well coordinated in all voting locations. But caution is de rigueur. Jordanians are especially concerned that violence might flare up or terrorists attack during the elections.

Although Iraqi voters in Jordan have been reassured that all voter information is confidential and polling stations will be well guarded, people are still afraid. Many refuse to be photographed or interviewed whilst standing in line for registration.

"I am afraid that those who oppose the elections in Iraq might recognise me and thus jeopardise my family's and relatives' safety inside Iraq," an Iraqi man explained.

Despite fears and misgivings, the campaign is in full swing. Posters and flyers in the main squares in Amman and in the northern parts of the country are only part of the multi-million media campaign launched inside and outside Iraq to urge people to vote. 

Recently, Jordanian authorities banned a seminar organised by a professional association dominated by Islamists and other opposition groups that oppose Iraqi elections. The government warned that professional associations should not meddle in politics. (ID)

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See also
Iraqi Islamic Reconciliation Summit in Amman
Amman: international conference on Iraqi refugees
Iraqi expats continue voting
Jordan to let 50,000 Iraqi children into its schools
Rising number of refugees in the world worrisome


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