Seventeen political parties on Friday demanded postponement of the Jan. 30 elections for at least six months until the government is capable of securing polling places.

The parties, mostly Sunni Arab (search), Kurdish and secular groups, made the call in a manifesto signed at the home of Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, who said he believed the government was waiting for such a request before seriously addressing the question of whether an election could be held by the end of January.

Parties of the majority Shiite (search) community strongly support holding the elections on time but there is widespread doubt within the minority Sunni community because of insurgent unrest in Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq.

Sunni clerics from the Association of Muslim Scholars have called on Sunnis to boycott the election to protest this month's U.S.-led assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.

A widespread boycott by the Sunni community could deny the elected parliament and government the legitimacy that U.S. and Iraqi authorities believe is necessary to help bring stability to Iraq and curb the insurgency.

Mohsen Abdul Hamid (search), leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that delaying the election was necessary because of "threats facing national unity, and fears of inciting sectarian tensions if a certain sect was excluded from the elections," referring to the Sunnis.

Other politicians said that the government was incapable of protecting voters from terror attacks if they tried to cast ballots.

Mohel Hardan al-Duleimi of the Arab Socialist Movement said most people were afraid to vote and that the government's election commission had failed to educate the public about the election.

"There is strong political polarization with sectarian roots," al-Duleimi said.