UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

02 December 2004

U.S., Iraqi Officials Caution Against Iraqi Election Delay

Officials cite political, legal, operational reasons for adhering to schedule

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. government believes that Iraqi elections should be held as scheduled on January 30, 2005, in spite of the difficulties involved, according to the State Department's Iraq Coordinator Ronald Schlicher.

The United States respects the opinions of the 17 political groups that have called for a delay of the elections but believes that the Iraqi government and the elections commission should work to address the technical concerns raised by these groups rather than accept a delay, Schlicher said at a December 1 briefing at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The primary reason he offered for moving ahead with elections as scheduled was that a delay -- even for legitimate political or technical reasons -- might be viewed as a moral victory for those who seek to derail the elections process altogether.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Feisal al-Istrabadi, offered additional reasons for adhering to the established date.

"Iraq is constitutionally committed -- if you'll pardon the expression -- to holding elections not later than the 31st of January," he said, referring to the provisions of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) which call for national elections no later than January 31, 2005.

He said that there are no provisions for amending or changing the TAL. He added that the TAL authorizes the independent Iraqi Elections Commission to set the date and said that the interim Iraqi government has no power to interfere in that decision.

The ambassador also said that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 endorses the elections schedule that was established in the TAL, making the election date a matter of international law.

Nevertheless, al-Istrabadi does not dismiss the opinions of those who are calling for a delay.

"Above all, this group reminds us that it is not merely elections for the sake of elections that are being held," he said. "Rather, at the very least and in the parlance of the United Nations, the elections must be reasonably credible."

He said that those who propose a delay must establish that it would significantly enhance the credibility of the elections and the entire political process. However, al-Istrabadi remained skeptical that the proponents of delay could make a convincing case on this point.

The ambassador said that the Iraqis have met every goal for self-governance set for them so far and cautioned that a delay at this point might embolden "an enemy determined to prevent any hint of progress and stability in Iraq, and quite prepared to use the most barbaric terrorist tactics, including the wholesale massacre of Iraqi civilian children, women and men to achieve their nihilistic goals."

He added, "Those advocating delay have a burden, it seems to me, of establishing that delaying elections will not constitute a victory -- moral or otherwise -- for terrorists whose evident goal is to delay or cancel elections."

Jeff Fischer, of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), said that there are operational reasons for moving ahead as scheduled, in addition to the legal and political reasons offered by the other speakers.

Fischer said that there are 6,000 people currently engaged in registering Iraqi voters based on the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program's rations database. He added that more than 200 political entities have applied for certification, filing candidate lists with a total of more than 4,000 names.

He also said that provisions are being made to allow Iraqi expatriates in 14 other countries to cast ballots.

Responding to a question about the technical possibility of holding elections on January 30, 2005, Fischer said, "I think the process and the viability of the process is speaking for itself right now."

He noted that the administrative infrastructure is in place in the field and that a regulatory framework has been established. He also mentioned the participation of Iraqi staff and the availability of international technical and financial assistance.

"I think if you look at the practical indicators on paper or in the field, you will see a process taking shape," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2004&m=December&x=20041202145719ndyblehs0.4968225&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list