UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SYRIA: Iraqis able to vote in upcoming poll
DAMASCUS, 5 January 2005 (IRIN) - The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has announced that it has signed an agreement with the Syrian authorities, allowing Iraqis living there to be able to vote in their country's upcoming election on 30 January.
At a press conference in the capital, Damascus, on Wednesday it was announced that a memorandum of understanding was signed on 2 January between the head of the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Programme (OCV) in Syria, Luis Martinez-Betanzos, and Dr Faysal al-Hamoui, director of international organisations at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"The Iraq OCV Programme believes that it is in the interest of all parties that Iraqis currently in Syria and worldwide will be able to choose their government and build the country's future," Martinez-Betanzos said.
There are some 400,000 Iraqis living in Syria, with only 13,000 registered with the UN.
The IOM is in charge of coordinating logistical arrangements to allow Iraqis in Syria to vote, and it will be providing international election experts for the OCV Programme.
In addition, Iraqis will be recruited for the OCV programme in each country to work as advisers, field coordinators and registration/polling officials.
It is not yet known how many polling stations there will be, but only that the location for all will be in the capital, Damascus.
Out-of-Country voting will take place over three days from 28 to 30 January, with the last day of polling coinciding with election day in Iraq itself.
Thirteen smaller election centres will be established in other countries hosting Iraqis and where the Iraq OCV programme is taking place.
An agreement was also signed recently between the Turkish authorities and the IOM OVC Programme for a similar process, with polling to take place in the capital, Ankara and the city of Istanbul for Iraqis living in the country.
But with election date not far off, some expatriate Iraqis complained they had not been given any information about voting. "How many people know about this event?" Iraqi refugee Jamal Jawahery asked IRIN. "There is no information available to Iraqis in Syria about this election. I did not see a list of candidates, not even in the Iraqi embassy," he added.
Now that the agreement has been signed, election preparations can begin in earnest, officers said. The IOM will meet with officials from the Interior Ministry on Wednesday for more discussions on arrangements, including security.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights
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