Countdown to Iraqi Elections — FOX Fans' Questions Answered

• What are Iraqis voting for?

• What powers will the newly elected assembly have?

• Who’s eligible to vote?

• What is planned for the day itself?

• Where will voting take place?

• Who are the likely candidates and parties?

• What about security?

• How much funding is the U.S. giving toward the election?

• What will happen after the election?

• Will our troops be able to leave once a government is in place?

What are Iraqis voting for?

Voters will chose a 275-member Transitional National Assembly, and members of 18 provincial legislatures. Iraqis living in the Kurdish-ruled region of northern Iraq will also select a new parliament. The National Assembly will elect a largely ceremonial president and deputy presidents. They will name a new prime minister and Cabinet, subject to approval of the Assembly.

The election will treat the whole country as one constituency. The results will be by exact proportional representation, which means that each party will get the same proportion of seats in the Assembly as it gets in the popular vote.

What powers will the newly elected assembly have?

The Assembly will be able to make laws, unlike the current interim government. It will elect from its members a president and two deputies. They in turn will choose a prime minister, who also has to be in the Assembly. The prime minister will hold the real power, over the armed forces for example. Their main role is to draw up a draft constitution by August 15, 2005 and submit this to referendum by October 15, 2005.

Who’s eligible to vote?

All Iraqis over 18 on January 1, 2005 can vote in the election. That accounts for some 15.2 million people, including 1.2 million abroad. Those abroad will vote in 14 countries including the U.S., Iran, Syria, Britian and Sweden. Iraqi officials estimate a turnout of 7 million to 8 million.

There are about 150,000 Iraqis in the U.S. with as many as 80,000 in Michigan. The International Organization of Migration selected five cities to host overseas voting: Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Nashville and Los Angeles.

What is planned for the day itself?

There will be a single, national ballot without constituencies. Voting papers are being printed in Switzerland to avoid counterfeiting and will be distributed to the thousands of voting stations to be set up across the country. Centers will be established in each of the 18 provinces to collate results before sending them on to Baghdad.

Once voters cast their ballots, their name will be crossed off the voter register and their thumb marked with indelible ink to prevent them from voting more than once.

Where will voting take place?

There will be around 40,000 voting booths in 6,000-9,000 polling stations, including consulates in about 14 foreign countries.

Who are the likely candidates and parties?

At least 6,000 candidates are in the race for the National Assembly.

Major Candidates:

A Shiite cleric who heads the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He opposed Saddam Hussein from exile in Iran before returning after last year's U.S.-led invasion. He was a member of the dissolved Iraq Governing Council and is allied to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Hussein al-Sistani, the country's top Shiite cleric, who was instrumental in setting up the 228-member electoral coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance. Al-Hakim heads the coalition list, which is widely expected to dominate the polls.

Prime Minister of Iraq's interim government, Allawi has a reputation of toughness in dealing with the multiple insurgencies that have gripped his nation. A former Iraqi exile with a long history of dealings with the U.S., including the CIA, he leads the Iraqi List coalition. It is unclear how much public support the former surgeon enjoys domestically. The moderate Shiite Muslim is a former Baath Party member whose wealthy family was close to the royal family that ruled Iraq before Saddam Hussein took power.

A Shiite and the main spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party. The Dawa Party was previously based in Iran and launched a bloody campaign against Saddam's regime in the late 1970's. Saddam crushed the campaign in 1982. The party is a member of the United Iraqi Alliance coalition, and al-Jaafari, a former Governing Council member, is running on its list.

Foreign minister in the government toppled by Saddam Hussein's Baath Party in 1968, and after Saddam's fall, a member of the Governing Council, he now heads a new group called the Independent Democratic Gathering. Pachachi, 81, had urged that the ballot be delayed by three months to give Sunni political and religious leaders a chance to abandon their boycott call. A prominent secular Sunni, he was pushed aside as a possible interim president in favor of Ghazi al-Yawer when sovereignty was handed over in June, but is still seen by some as a possible compromise figure to lead a future government.

A secular Shiite and one-time Pentagon confidant who led the Iraqi National Congress, a major umbrella organization of numerous disparate groups, including Iraqi exiles, Kurds and Shiites. A 58-year-old former banker who left Iraq as a teenager, Chalabi fell out with Washington this year after claims he had passed on intelligence to Iran. Chalabi, who was convicted in absentia of fraud in a banking scandal in Jordan in 1989, is running on the United Iraqi Alliance list.

One of six figures chosen by al-Sistani to draw up the United Iraqi Alliance list of candidates, al-Shahristani is a nuclear scientist whose refusal to work in Saddam's nuclear program led to his 1979 jailing. He escaped in 1991. Educated and married in Canada, al-Shahristani worked for human rights organizations in Iran and London. After Saddam was toppled, al-Shahristani's reputation for being nonpolitical saw his name floated as a possible interim prime minister, but the job went to Allawi instead.

(Source: "A Look at Leading Iraq Candidates," AP, December 15, 2004)

What about security?

The Defense Department announced that it would increase the number of troops in Iraq by 12,000 to provide extra security for the ballot. A recent decision increases the number of U.S. troops from 138,000 to approximately 150,000 by Jan. 30 — the highest level since the war began in March 2003. Other troops include: 125,000 fully and partially trained Iraqi security forces (U.S. government target); and 25,000 troops from other nations. Twenty-nine countries have troops stationed in Iraq.

(Sources: Council on Foreign Relations: The January Elections by the Numbers; Updated: December 2, 2004;

DOD: DoD to Extend Troops, Deploy Two Units to Iraq; 12/1/04;

UN Information Center: Iraq: Elections Fact Sheet; 10/26/04)

How much funding is the U.S. giving towards election?

According to a briefing from the State Department in October 2004, a total of $871 million in FY 2004 Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) resources are allocated to support democracy, governance and elections programs in Iraq. This level reflects an increase of $180 million based on the administration's recent strategic review of IRRF spending priorities.

(Source: Iraqi Embassy of the United States: United States Allocates $871 Million to Support Iraqi Elections; October 22, 2004)

What will happen after the election?

After the January 30, 2005 election, the votes will be tabulated and winners declared; the Transitional National Assembly is expected to be seated by mid-February; the Assembly will appoint a Presidency Council, consisting of a president and two deputy presidents; the Presidency Council will appoint a prime minister and, on his or her recommendation, cabinet ministers to run the Iraqi government’s various ministries.

The Transitional National Assembly will draft a new Iraqi constitution. The draft constitution is to be presented for approval to the Iraqi people in a national referendum in October 2005. By the end of 2005, the Iraqi people are expected to elect a new national government under a new, permanent constitution.

(Source: State Department Recaps Details of Iraqi Election: Iraqis prepare for January 30 legislative elections, January 10, 2005)

Will our troops be able to leave once a government is appointed?

According to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, the mandate of the foreign troops in Iraq will cease when the newly fully constitutional government takes office, though the troops could then be asked to stay by the new authorities.

However, there will also be a review ahead of this, in June 2005, and at any stage the troops could be asked to leave.

(Source: U.N. Information Center: Iraq: Elections Fact Sheet; 26 October 2004)