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SLUG: 2-322033 Iraqi Expats / Elections (L-O)
TITLE=IRAQI EXPATS / ELECTIONS (L-O)
HEADLINE: Low Registration Among Iraqi Expatriates
INTRO: The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration says less than a quarter of the one-point-two million Iraqis living abroad have registered for Sunday's general election. But, as Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva, IOM says this is good news.
TEXT: Despite the low turnout, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, calls the number of Iraqi expatriates who have registered to vote encouraging.
"One needs to stress the mere fact of having in excess of 280-thousand Iraqis registering for the election is very, very good news."
IOM, which is organizing the overseas vote for Iraq's electoral commission, extended its registration for Iraqis living abroad by two days to give more people a chance to register. The agency has set up 900 registration and polling locations in 14 countries.
But, Mr. Chauzy explains, many Iraqis did not find it easy to register. He says it might have been a deterrent for some Iraqis who don't have the time or money necessary to get to a registration office. But he says the process went off smoothly. He says the total number of those who registered meets the agency's expectations and he does not believe the low proportion will affect the legitimacy of the vote.
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"I think it is too early to speculate on the votes of the expatriates or the impact of the vote of the expatriate community on the in-country voting that will take place in Iraq. That being said, it shows that the Iraqi expatriates do want to participate in the democratic process. They want to have a voice. They want to have an impact on the democratic process in the country and that is something that obviously needs to be encouraged."
IOM figures show more than 60 thousand or about 75-percent of eligible Iraqi voters in Iran, registered to vote. By contrast, it says, not quite 24 thousand Iraqis in the United States, or 11-percent of the total, registered.
Mr. Chauzy says voting will take place from the 28th to 30th of January. The last day coincides with election day in Iraq. He says the ballots will be counted in the foreign countries and the results will be sent on to the electoral commission in Baghdad. (Signed)
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