Results of Iraq elections may take six months to see
March 4, 2010 · Posted in NEWS
Some of the major questions about Iraq’s election Sunday, along with answers culled from United Nations, U.S. and other international and Iraqi sources.

Q: Why are elections for parliament so important?

A: Unlike the U.S., Iraq has no presidential election. The president has largely a ceremonial role, and the real power lies with the prime minister. Iraqi voters will cast votes for one of many political parties (they can also vote for some individuals).

Those political parties have formed political alliances with other blocs. The alliance that gets the most votes will get to choose the prime minister and will have greater say in forming a Cabinet and could have more legislators in parliament. So the government formed by a nationalist, pro-Western slate could look very different from a government formed by a religious-based, Iranian-backed slate.

Q: Is there one Election Day?

A: The main Election Day is March 7, Sunday. However, March 4, Thursday, will be a special voting day for members of Iraq’s security forces and some medical workers because people in those fields will be securing the country on Sunday. There also will be three days of special voting ? March 5, 6 and 7 ? in 16 countries for voters living outside Iraq as refugees or immigrants. The United Nations says the out-of-country vote could range from 300,000 to 3 million.

Q: Who are the candidates?

A: About 6,200 candidates are running for office. Some are members of the incumbent government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Others are from powerful political parties and tribal confederations. Others are first-timers, total unknowns.

Candidates include doctors, lawyers, tribal leaders, clerics, educators, and businessmen and women. All candidates had to pass a background test and, in one of the most controversial aspects of the election season, they had to be cleared of any suspicion of past involvement with the Baath party of the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Q: Are women allowed to vote and run as candidates?

A: Yes to both. Because of a government quota, 25 percent of all candidates are women, to ensure that women make up a quarter of parliament, or at least 82 seats of a total of 325 seats. However, there are lots of tricky moves the parties employ to fill the female quota, such as signing up their wives or other relatives as candidates. There are no legal restrictions on women voting.

Q: How many eligible voters are there? What kind of turnout is expected?


A: There are 18.9 million eligible voters inside Iraq. No one has a good prediction for turnout because there are a number of wild cards, the first being whether voters feel safe enough to leave home and cast their ballots. Because of a vehicle ban on Election Day and to make sure voters don’t overwhelm polling places, only 420 voters will be registered at each polling place.

Each voter is supposed to have a polling place within a short walk from home. There are special polling places for the up to 183,000 Iraqis who were internally displaced.

Q: Will there be international monitors?

A: Yes, 500 to 600, although the United Nations said there aren’t enough for such a massive, complicated undertaking. The majority of the monitoring will be conducted by Iraqis.

Q: When can election results be expected?

A: There should be a rough indicator of results within a day or two. After polls close, Iraqi election workers will count the ballots in the polling places as monitors watch, a process that is expected to take until midnight or later. After the initial count, the ballots are taken to secure warehouses where 1,100 data-entry workers will work in two shifts to enter the data.

As soon as 30 percent of the polling stations in each province is entered, the Independent High Electoral Commission will begin issuing preliminary results, which will be updated twice a day until the process is complete. The final results ? after disputes and complaints are settled, and the out-of-country ballots are in ? might not be certified until the end of March.

Q: How soon after the results will a new Iraqi government be formed?

A: The results will kick off an intense ? possibly violent ? period of horse-trading and deal making. Some U.S. military and civilian advisers speculated it will take four to six months before a new government is formed. Others say that’s optimistic, given the fractious nature of Iraqi politics.