Today Iraq elects first democratic government

Published 3:14 am Monday, January 31, 2005

By by Jo Bonner
January 30, 2005, will mark a significant event in the history of the Iraqi people. For the first time in their history, men and women from that nation will be able to cast ballots and select representatives to their first-ever democratically-elected government.
The eyes of the world are upon Iraq in the days leading up to this event, and there is a great deal of hope and anticipation that the election can be conducted in a safe and organized manner. Even with the threats issued in recent days by extremists who have threatened physical harm to anyone who goes to their neighborhood polling places to cast a vote, millions of Iraqis are still preparing to take part in this historic election.
While exact numbers are not available, it is estimated that nearly 14.3 million Iraqis have registered to vote at one of the 500 voter registration centers established in recent months. Many of these centers are located in countries other than Iraq which have large populations of Iraqi citizens. The Washington Post even recently profiled one such center located just outside our nation's capital.
There are several significant facts about this election which I feel bear mentioning.
On Election Day, Iraqi voters will elect representatives to a 275-member Transitional National Authority (TNA), with an additional goal of having at least 25 percent female representation in this total number. It is expected that a total of 18,900 candidates will be registered as individual candidates or members of candidate coalitions for the national election, 18 provincial elections, and the election for the regional government in Kurdistan.
The TNA will serve a variety of functions following its seating in mid-February. During this transitional period, the TNA will serve as Iraq's national legislature and will name a presidency council which will consist of a president and two vice presidents. This council will in turn appoint a prime minister and offer its approval to a slate of cabinet ministers.
Later this year, the members of the TNA will draft Iraq's new constitution, a document which will be voted upon in a national referendum in October 2005. The final step in this process – the election of a new Iraqi constitutional government – will occur in December of this year.
It would be difficult to speculate at this writing what the outcome of the election will be just a few days from now. I can say definitively, however, that the hopes and best wishes of many millions of people here at home and around the world are with the Iraqi people as they take their first difficult – but tremendously meaningful – steps towards a new form of government and a new life for their nation.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. Congressman. His column appears weekly.

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