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News Transcript

Presenter: Carina Perelli, U.N. Electoral Assistance Division
Friday, June 4, 2004

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

MS. PERELLI: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. In my double capacity as both the head of the electoral mission in Iraq and the director of programs of electoral assistance of the U.N. around the world, it is my pleasure to inform you that the agreement on the electoral modalities have been reached; that we have an electoral framework and that we have an electoral commission. This was a result of long consultations with Iraqis both inside and outside of the Governing Council, both in Baghdad and in many cities around the country.

If you recall, the first U.N. report on the possibility of having elections in Iraq established that reaching these agreements was absolutely essential and a precondition to being able to hold elections no later than the 31st of January, 2005.

In the name of the secretary-general, of the U.N. focal point for electoral assistance and the secretary-general, Kieran Prendergast, and of all my colleagues in the U.N., I want to congratulate the Iraqi people for having moved the process of transition and self- determination one step further in the right direction in the road towards a democratic, sovereign and free and peaceful Iraq.

It is thanks to the determination of the people, their participation and their political will, that we have reached this point. It will be thanks to their political will and their determination that we will be able to go further.

From now on, this is probably the last time you see my face making an announcement on Iraqi matters regarding Iraqi elections because the independent electoral commission of Iraq will be making these announcements to the Iraqi people, as is their right. The U.N. will assume the role of providing technical assistance to this commission, as we have started already to do it on Monday because the commission was formed on Sunday, the 30th of May, and has already started to work.

Let me recall how this commission was formed because it is important to remember how this process came about, particularly since the events of -- probably the sexier events of having a government and establishing -- discussing names did not focus the attention of the media on what was happening on the electoral front.

As you recall, in our previous visit, we had reached agreement on two things: first of all, that an independent electoral commission had to be formed that would be different from the previous structures existing in Iraq and that therefore would not have any sort of -- any baggage from the past. We also agreed that this commission was going to be integrated by a board of commissioners, with seven voting members, one non-voting member that was going to be the chief electoral officer in charge of the electoral administration and the executive branch of the commission, and a U.N. electoral commissioner.

At the time, we also reached agreement on another thing, which was basically that the names of the commissioners needed to be reached by a broad process of participation of the population, because it was -- if this commission was going to be nonpartisan and independent, autonomous, impartial, of the people and for the people, it should come from the people.

Therefore, the U.N. agreed with the IGC and the CPA at the time on a process in which basically the participation of the population would be requested by the U.N., in order to appoint -- to nominate persons of good standing in their communities, people that the communities could trust, and basically the U.N. would conduct a process of evaluation and vetting, resulting in a short list that would be then presented to the IGC for a final ranking of the candidates.

The process was launched. We opened not only a dedicated e-mail address but also we established (safe ?) boxes where the population could deposit the application forms and the nomination forms for the candidates, in all the corners of Iraq.

The U.N. also had a team permanently auditing the process, so that we would be certain that no interference, no undue interference would be carried out.

This process resulted in 1,878 applications that were then sent to a team of U.N. evaluators, U.N. staff with experience in electoral matters and with experience in the region, that did the first vetting of the candidates.

Later on a panel of eminent personalities was put in place. And before coming to Baghdad to interview the final candidates of the short list, they basically stopped in the place where the evaluation was being conducted and basically audited the process the U.N. was conducting in order to be satisfied of their fairness and of the correct application of standard criteria for the selection of these candidates.

The panel of interviewers, as you recall, was chaired by Judge Kriegler of South Korea, integrated also by Dong NGuyen of Vietnam and Jaquine (Techien ?) of Mexico, three people with enormous electoral experience.

They came to Baghdad. They interviewed a short list of candidates. Twenty-four candidates were interviewed, because one couldn't continue make it at -- couldn't continue with the process, for family reasons, at the very last moment, and basically provided us with a short list.

I was not present during the interviews, neither was any of the members of my team, the team that was negotiating at the time the modalities for the agreement, because basically Judge Kriegler understood that we were too involved in a political process and we could be perceived or we could be tempted to exert undue influence in their deliberations, and he only wanted to rank candidates on the basis of merit and not on the basis of any other consideration.

If you recall also, the forms that the candidates had to fill did not have any sort of questions regarding ethnicity or religious affiliation of the people participating in the process. That information was not available either to ourselves or to the panel.

When the process of interviews was finished, Judge Kriegler provided us with a short list that I presented immediately to the plenary of the IGC for their ranking of the different candidates. The candidates, by the way, had been ranked on the basis of merit.

In the short list we had already -- the only thing that we could establish from the short list in terms of ascriptive criteria was that two women had made the short list, one of them the highest-ranked candidate in terms of merit in the eyes of the panel of interviewers, and both women were in the first tier of candidates.

When we presented the list to the plenary of the Governing Council, what happened was that the council determined that because the U.N. had been doing 90 percent of the work, they asked us officially to complete the process and to do 100 percent of the work.

Because these were very respectable candidates, all of them, with no prior political activity with -- known political activity -- some of them very, very well known in the activities such as human rights promotion or women's organizations. So they requested officially that the U.N. complete the selection process exclusively on the basis of merit and that we do the ranking of the candidates and provide the final list, which we did.

I accepted in the name of the organization on the 30th of May, and on the afternoon of the 30th of May I met with the (final of interviews ?) again in order to precisely now ask more detailed questions about skills, talents, personalities and what would be the best mix in terms of as a group for the commissioners to work together.

I suppose actually you are a lot -- all of you interested in knowing the names of the candidates by now. The list I'm pleased to announce -- and that I can certify as complying with highest standards of transparency, participation, and I can certify also that it was not produced by any sort of undue political pressure from any side, neither the IGC nor the CPA. It is an extremely well-balanced list, by the way, and widely reflects the diversity and richness of the culture of Iraq.

So I'm going to announce the electoral commissioners and the chief electoral officer on the Iraqi side, and then I will announce the U.N. commissioner on our side.

Before giving you the names, let's record that all of them will integrate the board of commissioners; the first seven names will be voting members in the commission. The chief electoral officer, as head of an executive branch, will have voice but not vote, as will the U.N. counterpart.

Electoral commissioners: Adel Hussein Yakub Assandawi (ph), Fareed Ayar Mihai Iyar (ph), Hamdia Abus al-Hussani (ph), Ibrahim Ali Ali (ph), Izadeen Muhammad Shafik (ph), Mustafa Sufwat Rachid (ph), Suwad Muhammad al-Jaboti (ph).

Chief electoral officer: Adel Muhammad Alami (ph).

Q (Off mike.)

MS. PERELLI: Alami (ph).

I have to apologize for the murdering of -- we will pass the list around after.

On the side of the U.N., the commissioner will be Carlos Valenzuela, a face some of you know already from previous exchanges. Carlos Valenzuela has been -- is a U.N. staff member, but also he has been the chief electoral officer and participated in various positions in 16 electoral operations of the U.N. Probably the best-known role that he has had is to have been the chief electoral officer in East Timor. And until today, he was having a relatively similar function as senior adviser to -- the U.N. senior adviser to the Palestinian Electoral Commission.

In the same plenary session, the IGC also voted on the electoral system and electoral modalities for these elections, which means basically that we not only have an institution and electoral authorities that will conduct the process and who will have exclusive authority over this process, but we also have rules of the game, which means basically agreement on the electoral system, the unit of representation, the contenders to these elections, an interpretation about the entitlement to vote, which as you recall from previous reports from the U.N. were the elements that were required in order to proceed to the second phase, which is the phase of implementation.

It was determined that the best system for these elections to the National Assembly of Iraq, and only for these elections, would be the system of proportional representation, using the whole country as a single national district. This system will allow voters to cast their vote wherever they are, for lists to be certified by the independent electoral commission of Iraq. These lists can be presented by political parties, political associations, independent candidates, and ad hoc groupings of concerned citizens. They don't have to present complete lists. For associations and groupings and political parties, the minimum number of names to be presented in a list is 12; the maximum, of course, being 275, which is the number of seats available in the National Assembly.

Any group of people or any candidate wanting to run for these elections will have to collect 500 signatures of citizens -- that is people entitled to vote for these elections -- supporting their candidacies, and simply present it to the independent electoral commission for their certification.

The signatures do not have to be spread nationally, by the way, but -- because for this election it will be accepted that even signatures and parties or political entities operating in a small district will be able to run for the elections. So there's no requisite for a national party. Governorate level, district level groupings will be accepted for these elections.

The natural threshold -- and by natural threshold -- I hate to provide with -- this type of briefing with technical terms, but basically in elections, you (cause ?) a natural threshold, what would be the cost in terms of votes that you have to have in order to win a seat in the assembly.

We have not established any legal threshold for these elections, so the natural threshold is obtained by dividing the number of votes by the number of seats. With the projected number of votes that we were working with right now -- because the final one will be known only when the citizens have cast their votes -- you will need between 26(,000) and 27,000 votes in order to win a seat for the national assembly.

In order to comply with the quota for women, lists, by the way, will need to have a female candidate every three names. And before somebody tells me that the quota is 25 percent and that basically one every three would give 33 percent, the reason why we are asking one woman every three candidates is because the system is so inclusive that it is to be expected that many lists will only have the first name of the list as a winner and because our independent candidates -- independent candidates will not have lists. So it is a compensatory measure in order to ensure that 25 percent of the seats are for women.

The principles that guided the design of the system were two. The first one was that the system had to be extremely inclusive. That is something that we have been hearing all over Iraq, not only this visit, but through our time in Iraq. And this is my fourth visit to Iraq.

What does it mean by inclusive? That basically we needed to make sure that anybody who needed to participate and who wanted to participate would have a chance to do so; that even the smaller interests would -- should and would be represented. And that is particularly important because what we are going to be electing is not only a National Assembly that will be a legislative body, but it's going to be a constituent assembly. And therefore, establishing this sort of social and political contract of the people of Iraq, it is extremely important that even the small groups feel that they can have their voices heard in that assembly.

The other issue that was extremely important is that because of the policies of the previous regime, there are a lot of communities that have been broken and dispersed around Iraq. And these communities wanted to be able to accumulate their votes and to vote with like-minded people. And therefore, these communities of interest, by using a national district, will be able to accumulate votes. They will be able to enter into deals, they will be able to basically aggregate interests, which at the end of the day is what this assembly is all about; it is about relaunching a dialogue among Iraqis in order to establish new rules for living together.

The U.N. is extremely satisfied with the process. It was achieved through dialogue, through discussions, through also a good deal of reality checks, because we also needed to make sure that whatever system is made available for this election could be feasible in the time frame at our disposal. Remember that the eight months started counting as of Monday in order to reach the elections by the 31st of January.

We will be present providing support and assistance to the commission, but from now on -- and I understand that the commissioners are planning to have their own press conference pretty soon, but they have asked for some time to arrange their own personal lives, them being private citizens and having to basically commit for a period of two years to this job, as soon as they are ready, a press conference will be convened and they will be able to give you a lot more details about themselves and their work.

Thank you very much.

Q Hello. I'm Beatrice Klaufman (sp), DPA, German News Agency. Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi once suggested that anyone who has a position in the interim government cannot run in the elections. What provisions do we have now in the electoral law?

And my second question, will there be an official beginning for the election campaign?

MS. PERELLI: Yes, let me start with the second one. Yes, there's going to be an official beginning for the electoral campaign. Of course that will be determined by the independent electoral commission that will announce it themselves once they have determined this. It will not be up to the U.N. to determine that official beginning.

Regarding whether or not the members of the interim government will be running, there is no provision either way. But one of the things that the modalities gives the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is a possibility of regulation of principles for the elections, because while we don't have what is technically called a full-fledged electoral law, but what we have is a draft order on the modalities of the election that will be regulated later on by the independent electoral commission.

And that's why it's so important to understand that this independent electoral commission is not only going to be independent, it will be financially autonomous, it will have the possibility of adjudication of disputes, it will have some capacity of regulation, and it will have the task of implementing the election. So basically, that part was never negotiated; it will have to be determined once more than the (broad outlines ?) are available.

Q (Through interpreter.) Adnan Mantarusan (ph), Al Hurriyah, Freedom TV. There were some criteria for candidates. Would you clarify the criteria for competitors in these elections? Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: Yes. There were 17 pages of criteria in the form that they had to fill to start with.

So, basically what we were looking for was not necessarily prior electoral experience, because that would have been extremely unfair, a sort of crazy criteria to put together in a country like Iraq that has had a very -- I mean, let's put this way; the U.N. would not consider that the elections under Saddam Hussein were up to any sort of international standard. But because these people needed, first of all, to be well respected, of good reputation; they needed to have integrity; they needed to have prior experience in issues such as participating in boards and committees, having had civic participation, not necessarily through the state, because otherwise we would have been excluding people in the opposition who could not be in the state.

So we were looking for experience in the management of budgets, in the management of human resources, capacity to work with legislative frameworks, capacity to organize in institutions, capacity to work in boards. There was a whole list of criteria, but also the trust of the people and basically the integrity of these persons was paramount.

We were also looking for character because you have to understand that the people who will integrate the board of commissioners will be subject to enormous pressures from all sides, as do any electoral commission in the world when you're organizing an election. So you need to have the character that allows you to withstand pressure, to be reasonable, not to be arbitrary in your decisions, but also to survive the experience. As when we were discussing in the IGC, at a certain point one of the members of the IGC said, "I'm afraid that private citizens will not be able to face some of the politicians." And I said, "Look, from what Judge Kriegler is telling me, there is a couple of ladies to start with in that commission that will be able to face the devil, if need be, and win." And that is one of the things that we were looking for.

Q Just two quick questions, Ms. Perelli. The first one is, I just understand -- I just want to make sure I understand how this will work. If I'm an Iraqi voter, I will go into the ballot box and I won't be voting for an individual -- right? -- I'll be voting most likely for a party or a slate of candidates, who most likely will be selected by the parties themselves. So, for example, if I vote for SCIRI, SCIRI then wins 40 percent of the votes, that's -- whatever -- 180 candidates or something, so --are winners in the National Assembly, they're going to choose the candidates -- correct? -- and they're going to pick the winners, you're not going to be voting for individual candidates? That's my first question.

My second question is just, you obviously selected this proportional system, as opposed to a system of, say, district elections. My question is, did you not choose the district system in part because it was just too impractical to try to actually draw district lines in Iraq without a census or anything like that?

MS. PERELLI: Thank you for your questions because they're very important. I'm afraid that my heavily accented English probably did not allow me to express myself clearly.

Independent candidates can run for this election, not only groupings or parties. A voter that goes to the voting booth basically will have at his disposal, lists, slates or lists who will be of different types. You can have traditional -- what we call traditional political parties; you can have lists of people who have decided to come together because they were a political grouping in defense of human rights or of the peasant rights, and have decided to present a list. They will be able to vote for, I don't know, a women's list, if you want. They will be able to vote for a list that might have a single name for the independent candidate.

Q Can I -- but you're not going to be able to -- if, say, the women's party has 10 candidates, you're not going to be able as a voter to pick, you know, candidate one, three and seven? Right? You just pick --

MS. PERELLI: Yeah. It's a closed list. Yes, you will not be able to open the list.

Q (Off mike.)

MS. PERELLI: Yeah. That's the first question. So it's an open -- technically speaking, you will be able to vote for closed lists of any sort of ad hoc formation. That's why we're not talking about registration of political parties or entities, but we're talking about certification of the lists. You do not have to register as a political party in order to compete in these elections.

The lists might be complete or incomplete. A complete list is one that has 275 names. An incomplete list is one that has -- if it is for a group, up to 12 names; if it is -- 12 names or more, I'm sorry -- if it is for an individual, just the name of the individual. Of course, it depends on your capacity to accumulate votes at the end of the day. What you will not have is the ability to open the list and choose and pick and choose from the candidates on the list.

The other thing that we are not going to have, which is something that -- I mean, I'm referring to because it was used in the 1992 elections in Kurdistan -- you will not have the possibility of having lists with no ranking. The candidates will have to be ranked, and therefore, it will not be up to the parties or to the groupings afterwards of saying from this pool of candidates that were voted we will be able to determine who goes to the parliament. That possibility is explicitly excluded in the modalities that we have reached.

Your second question?

Q District as opposed to --

MS. PERELLI: Oh, yeah.

The problem -- we had two problems with districting. First of all, we all know that there is -- there has been incredible amount of administrative gerrymandering in the time of Saddam Hussein. So in order to have districts that work, first of all, you would need to have had -- at the small level, you would have needed to have had time to boundary the limitation again, which requires a census. But it also requires not only a census, but it requires basically the active participation of the communities, because we're not just counting bodies.

When you do districting, you have to make sure that you don't break in two and three or in four communities of interest and people who identify themselves as a group or a neighborhood. That's the first problem that we have. Normally that process -- in well-established countries, the process of boundary delimitation takes up to two years, and a lot of litigation in the middle.

The smallest unit of representation that you could have had without having to go through the district would have been the governorate level, which also would have been possible to do, except that if you went for governorate -- districts at the governorate level, if you used bloc vote in places like Baghdad, for instance, you would had up to -- to choose up to 87 names.

And on top of that, the other difficulty that you would have had is that because not all governorates are -- have the same type of population, the seat allocation becomes rather complicated. And in the governorates that have few seats allocated to them, your natural threshold would have jumped to up to 25 percent. And therefore it would have been a rather unequal system for the sparsely populated governorates.

Q What sort of security precautions will be implemented? And who will ultimately be responsible for security?

MS. PERELLI: The security precautions we have started -- I suppose you are referring to the whole electoral process, not to this phase. For the security precautions, obviously the first precaution we have to take is basically for the safety of the commissions that have just been selected and appointed. But aside from that that, we are right now in dialogue with a whole series of actors, not only from the coalition, which will become afterwards the multinational force, but also the Iraqi authorities will have to also participate in these discussions and in the coordination groups for the security arrangement for elections.

Security for an election normally -- not only in Iraq, everywhere in the world -- refers to at least four types of items, the first one being these security of the electoral staff, particularly if they might get targeted -- staff and premises who are in charge of organizing the elections.

The second one is the security of -- obviously of the electorate, the voters and the environment for the development of an election.

Third one is to prevent the intimidation of the candidates that are going to be running for the election.

And the fourth one is going to be to prevent the attacks against any other person that is supporting the election, including international personnel. All these things are going -- are being discussed right now.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hab Ab-Yusef (sp), Shaq al-Ausaf (sp) news agency. Concerning the announcement today of the committee, is your mission ended with all the United Nations? And what is the relationship between you and the committee? Or will Carlos Valenzuela will be your representative and your work will be done?

The other question is those who oversee the elections in governates, who is going to choose them? Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: My family would love to hear that my work is finished. Unfortunately -- or fortunately, it is not so, because you know that the secretary-general has a special interest in Iraq. However, I'm going to resume my more normal duties of overseeing the development of the U.N. electoral assistance in Iraq from my normal position as director of the Division of Electoral Assistance in New York. And I will be coming, as I do with major operations -- periodically coming, sometimes on my own, sometimes at the request of the commission or of Carlos Valenzuela when he needs help in order to continue to provide assistance to Iraq.

Carlos Valenzuela will be a mix of commissioner and chief electoral officer in the sense that he will be in charge, he will be the boss of all the U.N. international staff that will be providing electoral assistance to the commission in Iraq. He will support the commissioners, obviously, and he will report both to the (SIDC ?) when there is an (SIDC ?) in Iraq, but also to New York directly to my office, as we do with any other operation.

The U.N. will not be organizing and conducting these elections, as I said. The people who will be conducting and organizing these elections are the Iraqi staff of the commission, led by the commission and headed by the chief electoral officer, who is also an Iraqi.

Regarding your question about the staff of the commission, and particularly the provincial directors of the elections, the commission will appoint them, but they will appoint them following a process -- probably streamlined -- a process of nomination and selection similar to the one followed to appoint the commission itself; which is we will require again of the Iraqi people to present nominations of candidates, of good candidates. Because if there is not a relationship of trust between the electoral commission and the citizens, this election will not work. And therefore, we will want to have maximum participation of the population in establishing the pool of candidates necessary for selecting the provincial directors.

Many of the extremely, extremely high-level people who applied to be commissioners and directors of elections, their names will be retained in a -- (leading ?) database, which we will be using also for selecting not only the provincial directors of elections but also some of the other very senior positions that this commission has.

In terms of the recruitment of the professional support staff of the institution that will organize the elections, it will be open to a process of open recruitment because it is important that -- this is a country where you have extremely talented people, and it is extremely important that for an institution that is in charge of the transparency of a process like the elections, that the processes of recruitment be also very transparent.

Q (Through interpreter.) Saad Abrahim (ph) from Zaman (ph) newspaper. Two questions. What is the budget, and where does it come from, for the electoral operations, and what is the source of that budget? And second thing, are you confident that the electoral operation in January will be successful after the demands for surveys and censuses? And will it also express the Iraqi people's opinions?

MS. PERELLI: First of all regarding the budget. There is already a budget, a line in the national budget of Iraq, for the elections. And right now, as one of the last tasks that the U.N. will be doing here, we are discussing precisely with the Ministry of Finance in order to establish the procedures for this money to be disbursed on time for the election. And it will be under the control of, obviously, the independent electoral commission and, obviously, the oversight of the Ministry of Finance, probably with some help from us in order to make sure that the transfer of skills necessary for managing large budgets for elections is done very quickly.

There is also -- at the time when the first projections were done, the idea was to have a budget for the election that would around $260 million, which is what is right now in that budgetary line. We will need to start doing more detailed planning in order to make sure that the money is enough, how it's going to be managed, et cetera, et cetera.

On the other hand, as you know, there is an enormous interest among the member states of the United Nations for supporting these elections. And several extremely important member states have -- coalition and non-coalition, and I would stress the non-coalition member states, by the way, because they have expressed an extremely high interest in this -- have approached us to say that they would be ready to earmark money, if need be, so that if any further assistance is required, that would be made available.

We don't want to have one of those budgets where basically you overspend because it's a bad administrative practice. But I don't think that the problem of budget and money is going to be an issue for these elections. What is going to be an issue is to make sure that we have the proper procedures set up so that when the money is required for disbursements, because of the constricted time frame that we have, the money is available to the commission; and that, of course, it is managed in an extremely transparent way. And one of the first things that we are doing is discussing auditing, the periodic auditing of how this money is going to be managed.

Q (Through interpreter.) The next elections in January, will they be successful, especially that there were demands about censuses and population?

MS. PERELLI: Sorry about asking you to repeat the question --

Q (In Arabic.)

MS. PERELLI: From a technical point of view, the time is sufficient to have credible and genuine elections. And I use those terms because those are the terms of the charter, precisely the terms that we use when we have to certify certain processes.

The census issue that has been coming and going around this election -- as I have explained in many other places before, you do not need to have a census in order to have a registry; in fact, it's a very bad idea to have a voter registry from the census. You will need a census, for instance, for issues such as redistricting. And you know that the census will be launched. You know that it's one of the things that is being discussed right now, but not for the purposes of establishing a voters list.

A voters list is established through a process of either full registration, electoral registration, or from deriving it from secondary sources, from existing databases, and basically going through what we call a process of social validation of the list, which is giving maximum publicity to the list and allowing the population to basically validate whether the names are there -- whether the people who are there are really their neighbors, et cetera, et cetera. That is what is required for an election, not a census.

On that issue precisely, we are preparing the technical studies to be presented to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq with the pros and cons and the risks in taking one option or the other. And basically they are going to be the ones making the final decision with our technical assistance, and basically on the basis of studies that have already been launched.

You will note that I talked about -- I made the caveat of credible and genuine elections from a technical point of view. Of course, the big question mark -- there are two big question marks in this process. One is going to be security, the security environment. And for me, the biggest question mark is more than the security environment -- something that will impact on the security environment, which is basically whether or not we are able to make these elections credible for the people. Without the people you don't have elections. With the people, even under harsh security conditions, you have elections.

So if the commission establishes a bond of trust between the citizens and themselves, then very likely we will have genuine and credible elections, because we can guarantee that we will be working with the commission, helping them in technical processes.

Q Hi. Just with regard to exactly what you were talking about -- Borzou (sp) from CBC -- could you describe what role, if any, the U.N.'s own ration card system here will play in coming up with those -- the voter rolls and -- that's it. Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: Precisely. When I was referring to the two modalities that can be used in order to come up with a voters roll, one is obviously full registration of the population, which has some benefits but also the main problem being if you launch a process of full registration, you will have a serious problem, probably, with the security right now, and therefore you can delay the process by attacking the registration process.

The other issue -- the other possibility is to extract your preliminary list from databases that exist. And right now what we have done is basically taken the ration card system, the public distribution system; we have been auditing it, checking -- even physically checking whether names in the list correspond to actual people alive and in the country. We are comparing databases and information, cross-checking with the different databases, in order to see what is the degree of trust that we can have in that system and how much you can manipulate the data without the system really collapsing.

If -- we are receiving right now the preliminary results of those audits, which seem to be very good. So it seems to be potentially an extremely good source for establishing the voters roll.

And -- but for us, the second part of the process is the most important, which is what we call the face of social validation, which is called also normally exhibition and challenges, where basically you make the voters roll available to the population for them to come and check, and also to challenge whether the people who are there have the right to be there. And that's why establishing among the modalities the entitlement to vote and basically determining our Article 11 of the TAL was going to be read by the commission was so important.

Once you do that, you create your final voters roll, which is the one you take for the election.

So it is a strong possibility. It will not be my decision to make. Both processes would take approximately five months.

Q Just a quick follow-up. Could you give a rating of the accuracy? The guy who designed the database said it was over 95 percent accurate. Are you finding that to be true?

MS. PERELLI: Unfortunately, not having the papers in front of me, I would prefer neither to confirm nor disconfirm (sic) because I would be lying probably; with my bad memory right now I could be saying whatever.

Q Hi. Luke Baker from Reuters. Can you estimate how many voting booths you'd need country-wide in a country this size, and therefore, how much security would have to be sort of arranged?

And would it be possible for the IEC to call in independent electoral monitors, maybe from the U.N?

And a third thing, has any thought been given at this stage to how you would mark people who voted? I mean, would you use ink, which could potentially be sort of some mark of death for some people.

MS. PERELLI: First of all, in terms of the plan for the deployment of voting stations or polling stations, although, again, it's a decision that the commission will have to make, I would estimate that you would have maximum 30,000 polling stations in the country. It depends how close or -- there's a full set of variables that intervene in determining how many polling stations you establish. Of course, ideally, the best polling station is the one that is the closest to the voter so that nothing interferes between the voter and the actualization of his right to vote. So normally, we are looking for proximity to the voters and to their communities.

We are looking also to the security environment and how it's going to affect the whole process, whether you are going to put mega- centers of polling stations or not. So there's a whole set of issues and criteria that would intervene in this process. However, for a country with this type of electorate, I would say that between 20,000 and 30,000 polling stations will be a fair estimate of the whole issue.

Q Independent electoral commission -- sorry -- independent monitors was the other.

MS. PERELLI: In terms of the monitors for the process, there are three things that have to be said. We are going to be urging the commission, and I think it is their intention to call for international observation, but also for national observation, national monitoring. And international observers can normally have -- deploy small groups of long-term observers at the beginning of the process and then come for polling day themselves.

National monitoring, as you know, is the actualization of a right -- of a civil right of the population, which is to recommend also the changes necessary. And we are going to probably be urging the commission not only to invite national monitors but also to be urging the international community to be deploying resources in order to basically strengthen the groups of national observers that might want to observe.

In terms of whether the U.N. will observe these elections, we won't. And we won't for a very simple reason. It is the practice and the doctrine of the United Nations in electoral matters that whenever we are providing technical assistance, we do not observe, because it was be tantamount to observing ourselves and saying what a great job we have done. So basically it would be less than credible, a less than credible statement, and that's why we will not be present in the process of observation, because we will be providing technical assistance.

Q Sorry. And the ink thing, about marking voters -- is that something that's been considered at all?


Q Marking people who have voted, how you tell if someone's voted.

MS. PERELLI: Normally what you do, particularly when there are concerns about whether or not -- concerns, real or not -- but I mean, any time a concern is raised about the possibility of faking documentation and double-voting, et cetera, et cetera, you use the procedure of indelible ink. We need to discuss this with the commission, for a very simple reason. In some countries, for instance, like Peru during the times of Shining Path, Shining Path had basically threatened to cut the finger of whoever had indelible ink in it because they wanted to curtail the participation of the voters. So that is one of the decisions that the commission will have to be making, regarding it against the security environment. I hope that we don't reach that point where -- (audio break from source) -- government, but the ultimate decision will be theirs.

Q (Off mike) -- NPR. Do you have a checklist of what needs to be accomplished by what date before -- (off mike) -- successfully carried out in January?

MS. PERELLI: Yes, we have a checklist of tasks to be accomplished and basically broadly in what sequence.

Q (Off mike.)

MS. PERELLI: That's the most we can give you, not by what dates, because as you can imagine, providing dates for completion of processes is the best way of making sure that somebody can sabotage those dates. But yes, there are standard lists of what needs to be accomplished for an election of this type to be successful. And we can do it.

Q Peter Hahn (sp), Los Angeles Times. Can you clarify for me -- it's a little confusing for me -- the way the ballot mechanism actually works? Does one voter just vote for one list or one slate, or, because the slates are different sizes, do they vote for multiple ones totaling 275, or how does --

MS. PERELLI: No, no, no, no.

Q Okay.

MS. PERELLI: The voter votes for one slate.

Q Okay.

MS. PERELLI; So, basically, the voter might decide that he's only interested in voting for one candidate and that that candidate has presented a slate of one and basically that's it. The intention of the voter then is "I don't care whether that slate gets a lot more votes." Obviously, a slate of one, if it is extremely popular, might lose a lot of the votes because after the independent candidate, you have nothing else, so basically, the allocation of votes will have to go to the general pool.

Then you can go --

Q I thought you said they had to have a minimum of 12.

MS. PERELLI: For the groups, not for independent candidates. You can declare yourself an independent candidate. If you decide to run as a group, basically you will have either complete or incomplete slates. An incomplete slate will have at least 12. Why? Because we are trying to cover the possibility of having more votes than expected, and therefore -- we don't want -- we want to minimize the risk of wasting votes, of losing votes that go to that slate. Up to 275 because that's the number of seats. But you vote only for one list. You as a voter make the decision of how you want your vote to go.

Q So when a list with, say, only one candidate exceeds 27,000 votes, is over the threshold, then -- I'm not sure how this works. So --

MS. PERELLI: Yeah. It will go -- because you're going to have a system of proportional representation that calculates largest remainders.

Q Okay.

MS. PERELLI: Those votes will go to the largest remainders, and in fact, your vote will go to some other candidate.

Q I see.

MS. PERELLI: But that's a free decision of the voter -- of some other's lists -- sorry -- not candidate. I mean, they go for the largest remainder, which is -- in proportional representation, you go for a succession of divisions until you have a total of zero wasted votes. Okay? And that's how you are allocated percentages. When the votes for your candidate have achieved -- you have achieved for the candidate the number of votes necessary in order to be able to run in the election, then the rest of the votes will go to the general pool of votes. Okay?

Q Last question?

MS. PERELLI: Last question.

Q Ms. Perelli, Ilana Ozernoy from U.S. News & World Report. You had mentioned that the Governing Council was happy to hand over the reins to let the U.N. lead the process, but they had set up their own elections committee. And my question is, were they at all involved in the process, or, rather, have they done any of the leg work or any preparatory work?

MS. PERELLI: The electoral committee of the Governing Council worked extremely hard. It was chaired by Hamid Musa, integrated by 14 members. They met regularly with me and with my team. I had one of my staff members who was fully dedicated to working with the electoral committee in order not only to discuss the technical issue with them, but also to convey views that we were hearing everywhere in our negotiations so that those views should be taken into account.

The electoral committee decided to convey -- we presented to the electoral committee the list of the 14 final names for the position of commissioner and the four names for the position of director general of elections that our panel of interviewers had achieved. It was only at the level of the plenary of the Governing Council that the Governing Council understood that is the selection had been based until now on merit, and that because these people were citizens, instead of them making the decision, the U.N. was much better placed in order to complete their job and determine who were the best candidates.

And we did such a good job that later on, when we were building the profiles of the candidates -- and that, I think is a lesson for the elections and people who want to carve this country into small communities -- we discovered that the commission has Arabs, it has Turkomen, it has Kurds and it has Assyrians, and it has among the religious affiliations we have Sunni and Shi'a and, of course Christian. But that was not predictable from the interviews. Many of us do not speak Arabic and are not familiar with the division of the country, and there was nothing in the process that would have allowed us to determine that.

Q And just as a follow-up, who are they are? I mean, are they lawyers, judges, political --

MS. PERELLI: You have lawyers, you have journalists, you have university professors, you have human rights activists, activists in women's organizations. Most of them come from -- all of them come from civil society, huge civil society participation, but with no political record.

Thank you very much.

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