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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 10:30 GMT
Iraq election at-a-glance
The interim Iraqi government has set a date of 30 January 2005 for its first nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. BBC News looks at some of the key issues surrounding the vote and how it will take place:

PURPOSE OF THE VOTE

Voters will choose 275 members of a national assembly, whose main task will be to debate and approve a new constitution, paving the way for new elections in December 2005. There will also be elections to 18 provincial assemblies as well as to the autonomous Kurdish parliament in the north.

PARTIES AND CANDIDATES

More than 120 parties have been authorised to field candidates for the assembly. Each has presented a list of at least 12 candidates, and no more than 275. Every third name must be a woman's, to ensure that at least 25% of the seats in the assembly go to women.

Ahmed Chalabi
Mr Chalabi may well feature in January's poll
On the whole, voters are expected to cast their ballot according to sectarian and ethnic divides. Shias, who are a majority in Iraq, are likely to back Shia parties, both religious and secular.

The Kurds, who have had virtual autonomy in the north for some years will in all probability back their already well-established parties.

Sunni representation is seen as the main concern. Some of their parties have also said they plan to boycott the poll, including the influential Association of Muslim Scholars.

Among the most prominent blocs are: the United Iraqi Alliance, a group of mainly Shia parties, which is said to have the backing of Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani; the Iraqi List headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party, the Iraqi National Accord Movement; and the Kurdistan Alliance List, which includes the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The Communist party, which opposed the US-led invasion, is running as part of the People's Union bloc.

The potential lack of Sunni participation in the vote could have long-term repercussions for the legitimacy and stability of the government elected.

Former senior Baathists are barred from both standing as individuals or on party lists, as are current members of the Iraqi armed forces, or any armed militias.

THE REGISTRATION PROCESS

The tight timetable combined with the violence in places like Falluja thwarted any suggestion of conducting a proper census of Iraq's estimated 12 million voters. Instead, electoral rolls based on the United Nations "Oil for Food" lists - drawn up in the 1990s by Saddam Hussein's regime, have been used. Voters were able to see the lists to make corrections and revisions.

THE DAY ITSELF

This will be a single, national ballot without constituencies.

Registration in Iraq
The electoral register is based on the ration card list
Voting papers have been printed in Switzerland to avoid counterfeiting and have been distributed to the thousands of voting stations to be set up across the country. Centres have been established in each of the 18 provinces to collate results before sending them on to Baghdad.

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

Seats will be allocated on the basis of proportional representation, which means that each party will get the same proportion of seats in the assembly as it gets in the popular vote.

MONITORS AND FOREIGN FORCES

There will be no foreign election monitors in Iraq for polling day. All international monitors will be based in Jordan.

Officials say Iraqi forces will provide most of the security.

But US commanders say their forces will be on standby in case the Iraqis run into difficulty. The insist that polling will take place even in the most violent areas under their control, including Falluja, Ramadi and Mosul.

KEY DATES

01 November: Voter and candidate registration began

22 November: Deadline for registering parties and individuals wanting to stand for election

23 November: Deadline for registering on electoral lists in the provinces

30 November: Deadline for registering on electoral lists in Baghdad

15 December: Election campaign kicked off

30 January: Election day




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