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Registered Iraqi Expatriates Vote in Overwhelming Numbers

  • Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration reports Iraqi expatriates who had registered to vote in Iraq's transitional national assembly election turned out in record numbers. More than 265,000 Iraqis or 93.6 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.

The International Organization for Migration calls the results excellent. Over the past three days, it says more than 265,000 Iraqi expatriates showed up at polling places in 14 countries to, as it says, vote for their country's future.

IOM spokesman, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, agrees that the number of out-of-country votes is a small fraction of the estimated eight million votes cast in Iraq itself. But, he says it is, nonetheless, significant.

"But, it shows that the Iraqi expatriates are interested in the future of their country, which means that at some point when the conditions are right and propitious, some of them might consider returning back to Iraq to contribute to the reconstruction of the country," he said.

Mr. Chauzy says the count process for the out-of-country election already has begun in many of the 14 host countries. He says ballots from each of the polling places have been sent to the 34 count centers set up in the cities. He says the final results will be sent to the IOM office in Amman, Jordan, which will then send the results on to the Iraqi Electoral Commission in Baghdad no later than February 5. He says the commission will release the certified results of the election.

Mr. Chauzy says organizing the out-of-country registration and vote in only 67 days was a challenging, but exhilarating experience. He says it was heartening to see how determined the Iraqis were to participate in this historic vote.

"We know that some of them traveled very long distances to come and register and vote," he said. "And, when they came to the ballot boxes, some of them were dressed in traditional dress. They were dancing in the streets after having cast their ballots. Many had to, all had to dip their index in indelible ink to avoid them voting twice. And, this painted index with ink became for many a symbol of their newly found democratic rights."

Mr. Chauzy adds the Iraqi expatriates held their ink-dipped index fingers up in the air as a sign of their freedom to choose their leaders.