- Title: IRAQ: Iraqi candidates prepare ahead of country's provincial elections
- Date: 26th January 2009
- Summary: LIST 176 OF FUTURE FOR INDEPENDENTS PASTED ON CONCRETE BARRIER IN STREET/CAR DRIVING PAST VARIOUS OF ELECTION POSTERS ON CONCRETE BARRIERS
- Embargoed: 10th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA5G0QL18FVDWOPC0ALO7RPSQT9
- Story Text: Baghdad's walls are adorned with posters of candidates, as the countdown to the country's Jan. 31 provincial elections continues.
With only six days to go before Iraq holds its provincial elections, the country's candidates are well into their campagins, plastering posters across the walls of the Capital on Sunday (January 25).
Even with violence taking a dip in the region, the United Nations warns the vote could stoke fresh bloodshed as rival Shi'ite Arab parties in Iraq's south, and Kurds and Arabs in the north vie for power.
Sunni Arabs, many of whom are looking for renewed political influence after staying away from the last provincial elections in 2005, will be represented in western Anbar province, a major Sunni Arab area, and elsewhere in the Jan. 31 vote.
Across Baghdad, workers scrubbed walls to make way for new posters, some featuring faces of well-known Iraqi politicians urging supporters to elect their party's candidates to the influential councils in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces.
Small groupings like the Communists are not expected to upset the leadership of large national parties, such as those linked to major players such as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, or Shi'ite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the powerful Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
As they wait for long-promised reconstruction and an end to the sectarian slaughter that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, many Iraqis are sceptical about the results of the elections will bring.
Some are more optimistic about the results. Mahmoud Saeed, an Iraqi citizen from Baghdad's Karrada sees the elections as a chance for people to choose a candidate who will be able to make a difference.
"In my opinion, it makes no difference whether the lists are opened or closed. The issue is that the people have to elect, they have to vote to sort out corrupted officials or officials who failed to do their duties, with my respects to all officials. Therefore, I urge people to vote, not because the lists are opened or closed, but in order to fight corruption and get rid of people who failed to serve the Iraqi people," he added.
The first two Iraqi elections in 2005 were run under a "closed list (CL)" system. In this system, voters voted not for individual candidates but for lists--coalitions of parties--which were then allocated a number of seats proportional to their votes. These seats were then distributed according to re-established rankings of individual candidates in each list.
More than 400 parties and 14,000 candidates will compete for 440 seats in the polls, in which Iraqis will select individual candidates rather than party lists as in the past.
Elections under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hossein were far from fair and ballots held since his fall under U.S. military supervision might not be considered free, Iraqis say.
The local polls, followed by national elections due later in 2009, are seen as a key test of Iraq's fledgling democracy, and as crucial to reconciling the country's many sectarian and ethnic groups after years of bloodshed and discrimination.
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