Fears over elections timed to coincide with haj pilgrimage

The announcement that the first elections in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime will be on 30 January was greeted yesterday with warnings that a viable poll could not take place in the continuing climate of violence.

The election campaign will also coincide with the haj in mid-January, and the transit of several million pilgrims from Muslim countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan overland through Iraq to Mecca.

The elections must be held by the end of January for a transitional parliament which will, in turn, pick a new government and oversee the adoption of a constitution, according to the American's timetable for the establishment of representative government.

Diplomatic and military sources say that they expect a determined effort by Islamist groups to smuggle in fighters among the worshippers, with little chance of detecting them. The sheer number of pilgrims will, they say, create a logistical nightmare beside a political campaign in which 120 parties are taking part.

One officer said that those planning the transitional process appeared not to have taken the Muslim calendar into consideration.

The pilgrims will be in Iraq while mosques are being raided by US and Iraqi troops, and with the memory of the bloody battle for Fallujah still fresh in people's minds. A number of Muslim clerics have played leading parts in opposing the US-led occupation forces.

The independent Iraqi electoral commission said that even areas beset by violence will participate in the elections. The commission spokesman Farid Ayar said: "No Iraqi province will be excluded because the law considers Iraq as one constituency and therefore it is not legal to exclude any province."

Many of the voter registration centres are shut because of attacks, and insurgent groups have threatened a wave of attacks to disrupt the election. Both the US and Britain have said they will be sending extra troops to Iraq in anticipation of an increase in violence.

Sunni Arab leaders, including some in Iyad Allawi's interim government, have called for the election to be postponed until the security situation stabilises, and there have been calls for the Sunni population to boycott the polls.

However, leaders of the Shia community, which encompasses a majority of the population, are keen for the elections to be held, and Ayatollah Sistani, the Shia spiritual leader, has urged his co-religionists to take an active part in the polls.

Under the rules, the electorate will vote for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly. Political parties will submit a list of candidates and every third name has to be a woman's.

Parties with affiliations to militias are ineligible to take part, as are former senior members of the Baath party.

Suggested Topics
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits