Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iraqis Vote in Provincial Elections

An Iraqi soldier from 1st Battalion, 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi army division, shows that he's voted at an election polling station in the Al Faisalia neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 28. It is the voting day for government workers such as Iraqi army, police, etc. and people with special needs. (Photo by Staff Sgt. JoAnn Makinano: Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.)

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2009 -- Iraqis of all backgrounds are preparing to vote today during their country’s first election since 2005, a senior Defense Department official said earlier this week.

More than 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the Jan. 31 provincial elections, which will select representatives for 440 council seats across the country’s 18 provinces, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told Pentagon reporters.

The more than 14,000 candidates “have for the most part, run on issues that matter to the Iraqi people, rather than trying to exploit ethnic or sectarian divisions,” Morrell said.

There has been some pre-election violence, but relatively few instances of voter intimidation, Morrell said.

Sunnis had boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, but indications are they will participate in this year’s provincial-seat polling, Morrell said. This development, he said, should produce a more representative Iraqi government, particularly in traditionally Sunni areas.

U.S. and Coalition troops will support Iraqi Security Forces during the election, Morrell said.

Morrell also noted that Afghan government officials have announced their country’s next national elections will be held in August, just before the Ramadan observance period. Reports also indicate, he added, that voter registrations in Afghanistan continue to progress well.

“So, we are pleased that the relatively new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to mature rapidly,” Morrell said.

More to follow....

(Report from a Pentagon news release.)

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