So, is the nation ready for 'the mother of all ballot papers'?

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The Independent Online

What will people be voting for? A 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), approximately one member for roughly every 100,000 people in the population of just over 25 million. Political parties have submitted lists of candidates, who must be aged 30 or over. One-third of candidates must be women

What will people be voting for?

A 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), approximately one member for roughly every 100,000 people in the population of just over 25 million. Political parties have submitted lists of candidates, who must be aged 30 or over. One-third of candidates must be women.

How will the election be run?

The vote is based on a single constituency, proportional closed-list system. This means there are no constituencies so it does not matter where you vote. If a party gets 10 per cent of the votes, it gets 10 per cent of the seats. The parties choose the order of candidates on their lists, which is then final. If a party wins 10 seats, their top 10 people are elected.

What powers will the Transitional National Assembly have?

The assembly will choose an interim administration and will be able to make laws. It will elect from its members a president and two deputies. They, in turn, will choose a prime minister. A draft constitution will then be drawn up by 15 August, 2005. This will be submitted to referendum by 15 October 2005.

When will there be a fully constitutional government?

If the constitution is approved, elections to a government will be held by 15 December 2005. If the constitution is rejected, a new National Assembly will be elected to come up with another constitution.

Is Iraq prepared for the elections?

Millions of ballot papers have been printed, thousands of voting booths assembled and 300,000 Iraqi and US troops are on guard. All that is needed now are voters.

How do people vote?

Voters can register at any polling station in Iraq. Iraqis will be marked with ultra-violet ink after casting their ballot to prevent multiple voting.

What about Iraqis overseas?

The 1.2 million Iraqis in exile are eligible to vote. The International Office of Migration has set up voting places in 14 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and the US. So far, only 131,635 overseas voters have registered to vote.

Will people vote?

Overall turnout, according to the Iraqi Electoral Commission, is expected to be between seven and eight million, about 50 per cent of the estimated 14 million adults are eligible to vote. At this stage, voter turnout estimates are highly speculative because the rising violence could prove an important deterrent.

What about security fears?

Iraq's interior minister said Baghdad's international airport would be closed on 29 and 30 January, and that several regions will come under night-time curfew as Iraqis head to the polls. Vehicles without permits will not be allowed on the roads, and a public holiday declared with shops and offices being closed.

What are the expectations for the Sunni Triangle and Baghdad?

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has acknowledged that violence will prevent "pockets" of Iraq voting in the elections. The most dangerous areas for would-be voters are around Baghdad, Samarra, Mosul and Ramadi, where 40 per cent of the Iraqi population live and insurgents are highly active.

Who is likely to dominate the poll?

The Shias form approximately 60 per cent of the population, so parties representing them are expected to gain the most seats. The Sunnis, who make up about 20 per cent of the population, are likely to be reluctant to vote because of local intimidation by insurgents. Many are also boycotting the elections. If they do not turn out, a constitutional crisis looms. The Kurds in the north will turn out en masse.

Will ordinary Iraqis understand what's going on?

Who knows? The giant ballot paper for next Sunday's Iraqi elections (one Iraqi election official jokingly calls it "the mother of all ballot papers") measures nearly 3ft long by 2ft wide, and lists 257 local or national political parties to choose from. After 40 years, a democratic election is new to most of the population in Iraq.

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