Iraq to hold fair elections despite attacks

For the first time in nearly 50 years, Iraq will hold a free and fair national election, even as insurgents step up their attacks in an apparent attempt to scare potential voters away from the polls.

According to a USA Today article, President Bush spoke with Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday about the Jan. 30 elections. At the same time, insurgents detonated a car bomb outside the Baghdad offices of a leading Shiite political party, killing three people and wounding nine others.

Militants have aimed many of their attacks on Iraqi security forces that they accuse of collaborating with American forces. Officials also found five civilians and one Iraqi soldier dead in the city of Ramadi, each holding a handwritten note accusing them of collaborating with Americans in their lifeless hands.

Insurgents have warned people to stay away from the polls, and have threatened candidates lives.

To date, three candidates have been killed by gunmen.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration is committed to ensuring safe elections in Iraq, but he knows there’s still work to be done.

“Obviously, there are continuing security concerns that we’re continuing to work to address with Iraqi security forces, but we want to see the best election possible and we’ll do everything we can to help the Iraqi people have broad participation in those elections,” McClellan said.

The election is for a second interim government that will succeed prime minister Allawi. That interim government will draft a constitution for the country, and an election at the end of the year will lead to a permanent Iraqi leadership.

According to a former coalition spokesman, people will go into the booth and vote for a party. Depending on the percentage of votes the party gets, it will get that many seats in the national assembly.

Iraqi’s began registering in 14 countries to vote in the election on Monday. About 240,000 Iraqis are eligible to vote in the United States, and nearly 35,000 are expected to register to vote in the election.

Eligible voters can be American citizens, but must be 18 or older, have been born in Iraq and hold citizenship or proof that their father was an Iraqi citizen. Extra security measures have been put in place for the election. At one polling station in Nashville, Tenn., three concrete barriers forced vehicles to zigzag while an armed officer checked credentials.

In Iraq, U.S. forces are working to “kill or capture bad guys and keep them from influencing the elections,” said Capt. Kevin Beagle, squadron plans officer for the Army’s 2-14 Calvary. “We’ve been ramping up, obviously for the elections.”

Iraqi officials will also close borders and restrict movements to help boost security during the elections for three days starting Jan. 29.

Voting will start Jan. 28 and will end Jan. 30. The last Iraqi election was held in 2002 by former President Saddam Hussein who claimed to win the election with 100 percent of the vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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