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Iraqis in Jordan Begin Voting


Like other Iraqi expatriates around the world, Iraqis living in Jordan have already begun voting in their home country's landmark elections. The balloting got off to a slow start, amid tight security and mixed reviews.

Security outside the Al-Sweifieh voting center here in Amman was extremely tight as polls opened early Friday.

About two dozen heavily armed guards surrounded the polling station, and thick metal spikes were spread across the road to prevent cars from approaching too closely.

Voters must show identification to get past the police, and then must pass through a metal detector before approaching the polls.

But Bassim Moushtaq, 67, a retired engineer, says he put on his best suit before heading to the polls. He says he does not mind the delays, not after nearly 25 years living in exile.

"Oh, it's wonderful," he said. "I appreciate these people who are helping others to vote, and I am happy to see people using their right to decide their future."

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, IOM, organized the balloting for Iraqis living abroad. Organizers say they expect about 20,000 Iraqis to vote in Jordan over the next three days. But they also acknowledge this represents barely 10 percent of Jordan's Iraqi expatriate community.

Even though voter turnout early Friday was light, election organizers say they hope it will pick up by Sunday. They suspect that anti-election violence inside Iraq is even keeping some potential voters from the polls in Jordan.

But many Iraqis here complain the election is simply too confusing, with too many unknown candidates and no clear cut view of what the vote might mean for the future.

Others are simply not going to vote. Sheikh Zaidan Aloudh is a Sunni tribal leader who fled Iraq last month, after the U.S. military accused him of supporting the insurgency and issued a warrant for his arrest. He denied the military's accusations, but said he will not vote, because he considers the election something America is trying to force on Iraqis.

He said he supports democracy, but not this election. He said he hopes people will boycott the vote and show the United States how frustrated they are with the U.S. military.

But Bassim Moushtaq said he thinks Iraqis should concentrate on showing the world that they are ready for democracy. "Using the rights to vote, this is the most important thing, the right to decide their future," he said.

More than 280,000 Iraqi expatriates registered to vote in 14 countries, including Jordan, Syria, Iran, Britain, Sweden and the United States.

In Iraq itself, the election will be held on Sunday.