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Arab League, EU Warn Sunni Boycott Spoils Poll

InternationalAs the controversial Iraqi elections are only three days away, the Arab League and the European Union have warned in unison of the grave consequences of a Sunni boycott of the January 30 polls.

“The boycott will affect the credibility of the outcome and if the outcome is to be a national assembly that is to draft a constitution, there will be a major problem,” Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki told Reuters Tuesday, January 25.

Members of the 275-seat National Assembly will be elected to choose a Presidency Council later and draft the country’s constitution, with Shiites expected to dominate the poll.

The constitution must then be ratified through a national referendum –- scheduled to take place at the end of 2005.

“You end up having an electoral process that is secretive because of the security situation and which is not comprehensive because of a boycott by a significant component of Iraqi society,” Zaki added.

Some major Sunni groups, including the Association of Muslim Scholars and the Islamic Party, are boycotting the election and have said it should be delayed as long as it will be held under an occupying power and in view of the prevailing insecurity.

The pan-Arab body has earlier called for the US-backed interim government to hold a conference to promote reconciliation with its opponents to ensure election participation.

Zaki said Baghdad had taken only “shy and very small moves” towards reconciliation.

“None of the big actors, the significant actors, in Iraq responded positively to this,” he said.


EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, meanwhile, has warned that it would be a “catastrophe” if Sunnis do not vote in this month\'s landmark elections in Iraq.

“I don\'t think that Iraq (could be) stable if the Sunnis do not participate in the political process,” Solana told the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.

“If there were no Sunni representative, it would be a catastrophe,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Solana as saying Monday.

Solana said at least the Sunnis should take part in drafting the new constitution and the new electoral process if they remained reluctant.

“Otherwise, I don\'t think we will have a stable Iraq if the Sunnis are not part of the process. Every sensitivity in Iraq has to participate in the electoral process,” he reiterated.

Voters will not be choosing individual politicians, but a list of candidates representing a party or coalition.

The vote is based on a single constituency, proportional closed-list system, meaning that 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.

Lay people, nevertheless, are left in the dark as they have not got the faintest idea about the blueprints of the candidates or even the names of the runners.

Even the 1.2 million Iraqis abroad showed scant interest in the process, with less than 10% registering to cast their ballots in the 14 countries designated by the electoral committee and the International Organization for Migration.

The White House acknowledged January 13 the controversial election would be flawed because of raging insecurity in the war-torn country as more Iraqi parties boycotted the polls.

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