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After the Vote

Q&A: What's Next for Iraq's Democracy?

By Jeffrey Marcus
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, January 31, 2005; 2:01 PM

What Are the Results of the Election?

Iraqis counted ballots Monday from the Jan. 30 National Assembly election. Voters went to the polls to elect a 275-seat National Assembly that will be responsible for writing a new constitution. It may take up to two weeks to count all of the ballots and determine the parties elected to seats in the assembly. Challenges may be made to some of the names appearing on party lists under the provisions of the electoral law.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) ran the election and will oversee the ballot counting under the electoral law. The IECI is run by Iraqi citizens with the involvement of an international electoral expert chosen by the United Nations. The rules and timing are prescribed by the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

An Iraqi woman proudly shows her ink-stained finger indicating she voted Sunday at a Sadr City polling station in Baghdad. (Majid Saeedi - Getty Images)

_____More on Elections_____
Photo Gallery: The end of Iraq's Election Day brought indications of strong turnout, but also reports of at least 30 people killed.
Transcript: Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid discussed the elections and the latest news from Iraq.
Transcript: The Post's Jackie Spinner discussed the scene in Irbil, where elation at electing a new Kurdish parliament has Kurds partying in the streets.
Graphic: Voting Sites Attacked
Primer: What's Next For Iraq?

How Many People Voted?

Millions of Iraqis around the country turned out to vote despite threats of violence from insurgents. Officials loosely put voter turnout at around 60 percent nationwide, higher than expected. Although it was notably lower in the primarily Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq where the insurgency has been most active, many more voters went to the polls than expected. The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid reports "lines that began small at polling stations grew during the 10 hours of voting, sometimes dramatically."

Voices From Iraq: Voters Speak (washingtonpost.com, Jan. 30, 2005)

According to the Electoral Law (pdf), all Iraqi citizens or those entitled to reclaim Iraqi citizenship born before Dec. 31, 1986, were entitled to vote. More than 14 million Iraqis were eligible. Iraqi voters had to register with the IECI. Absentee voting for Iraqis living abroad was allowed in 14 countries including the United States. The Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program, administered by the International Organization for Migration, ran voting facilities in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, and the Washington, D.C., area.

What About the Violence?

At least 45 people, including one U.S. Marine on patrol, were reported killed throughout the country on election day. There were nine suicide attacks according to police. Insurgents also resorted to shootings and mortar attacks in an attempt to make good on their threats to disrupt the balloting. Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian whose al Qaeda-linked group has asserted responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in postwar Iraq, claimed responsibility for many of the attacks Sunday. However, the violence was less severe than expected and failed to intimidate many Iraqis from voting. Shadid reports that “many Iraqis triumphantly pointed their index fingers, stained with the purple ink that indicated they had voted, and hardly flinched at gunfire and explosions that interrupted the day.”

At the Polls: In the Wake of Suicide Blasts, Iraqis Still Went to the Polls (Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2005)

Deadly car bombs, assassination attempts and kidnappings had been almost daily occurrences in Iraq in advance of the elections. U.S. and Iraqi officials implemented increased security measures aimed at preventing violence on election day. Travel within Iraq was limited and cars, used frequently in suicide bombing attacks, were banned from the roads. Iraq’s interior minister, Falah Naqib, said Monday that more than 200 suspected insurgents were arrested in a crackdown pegged to the election.

Bush Hails Iraq Vote a Success (Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2005)

What Will Be the Duties of the National Assembly?

The National Assembly will have a one-year mandate to write a new constitution. It will elect a president and deputies who will in turn choose a prime minister. The constitution, expected to be completed by August 2005, must then be ratified by Iraqis in the fall before a permanent government can be elected in December under the rules of the new constitution. The national legislative body will govern all of Iraq’s 18 provinces under the authority of the TAL implemented in March 2004 by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Who Was Running?

There were roughly 19,000 candidates running for National Assembly or regional legislatures. There are 111 party lists, which include more than 7,000 candidates. Names must appear in rank order on the party lists and every third candidate in order must be a woman. Seats will be allocated through a system of proportional representation, meaning that if, for example, a party list gets 20 percent of the vote, then roughly the first 20 percent of the candidates on that party’s list will be seated.

Pre-election polling numbers indicated that the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite groups endorsed by the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was the leading slate, fielding 228 candidates. This list includes members of the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is leading a secular party, the Iraqi National Accord or the Iraqi List. The list of 233 candidates includes a mix of secular Shiites and Sunnis. The Kurds in the north are fielding their own slate, the Kurdish Alliance, the only list representing Iraq's substantial Kurdish minority. It combines both major Kurdish parties. Elder statesman and former exile Adnan Pachachi, a secular Sunni, headed the Assembly of Independent Democrats list. Pachachi had opposed the elections but decided to participate to preserve a Sunni voice in the government.

But voters could only choose the party name without viewing the list of individual candidates when casting their paper ballots. Many names were withheld for security reasons after insurgents threatened to harm candidates and their families. This uncertainty over who exactly is on a party list may lead to challenges under the electoral law once votes are counted and seats are distributed among candidates.

To run and take up a seat in the National Assembly, a person must be an Iraqi citizen, must be at least 30 years old, have a high-school diploma and cannot be a high-ranking member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party or responsible for atrocities under Hussein’s regime. Lower ranking members of the Baath Party who renounced their affiliation can serve. Current members of the Iraqi armed services were barred from running.

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