‘Despite violence, Iraq poll can be credible’
* Allawi says elections will defeat violence
* NATO hopes it will help heal wounds
BAGHDAD: Conditions for Iraq’s election are far from ideal and violence is expected on the day, but the vote will go ahead on Jan 30 and should be credible, the UN’s top election official in Iraq said on Saturday.
With eight days to go before the country’s first multi-party election in nearly half a century, Carlos Valenzuela said he and Iraq’s Electoral Commission were in a race against time but remained on target to have everything in place on polling day.
“We’ve got to the stage where we can say that all electoral preparations are, at least at this point, in place, although there is still a lot of work to be done,” Valenzuela, 47, told reporters inside the heavily fortified Green Zone compound.
“(Conditions) are not the best and certainly far from ideal, but if the security measures work there is a very good chance that the elections that take place will take place successfully ...and will be accepted as legitimate,” he said.
Insurgents have stepped up their 18-month campaign of violence in the build-up to the poll, killing 25 Shias in two suicide bombings in and near Baghdad on Friday in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between religious communities. Valenzuela, who has spent the past 13 years planning and overseeing elections in hotspots ranging from Haiti and East Timor to Mozambique and Mali, said he expected militants to try to disrupt the poll but hoped counter-measures would work.
“There has been violence in the run-up and it is likely that there will at least be attempts at violence on the day,” he said, emphasising that conditions were far from perfect. “But violence does not necessarily disqualify the elections.”
Meanwhile, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Sunday insisted that Iraq’s looming elections would put an end to the country’s bloody violence. Speaking on BBC television, Allawi added that every Iraqi should have the right to be part of his country’s new political process, after Al Qaeda’s front man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared war on next Sunday’s polls which he said were aimed at bringing the country under Shiite control.
“We believe the elections themselves will help in putting an end to violence by fighting terrorists,” Allawi told the BBC. “We are determined to move ahead with the political process, we are determined to move on to democracy. This will defeat the objectives of our enemies in trying to undermine us.”
Earlier, NATO nearly ripped apart by the Iraq war, hopes this month’s elections there can mark a fresh step in the healing process - but the wounds are still sore and few expect an overnight recovery. agencies