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TIME: 10:19 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for attending this conference.

Your speaker will be Ms. Carina Perelli, director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations and head of the United Nations electoral assessment mission here in Iraq. She will have an opening statement for about five to 10 minutes, and then she would be happy to take your questions.

The electoral assessment mission headed by Ms. Perelli arrived in Baghdad on March 26th, 2004, to look specifically at the electoral process in Iraq. As you are aware, Mr. Brahimi and his team conducted a press conference yesterday on the structure and composition of the Iraqi interim government.

As such, we will only be able to address your questions on issues within our areas of expertise. For security reasons, we will not be able to answer any questions concerning travel, as well as the current security situation in Fallujah.

Please switch off your mobile phones. When you ask a question, please state your name and affiliation clearly. Throughout the conference, Mr. Jalal Zaid (sp) will provide a simultaneous interpretation. At the end of the conference, please remain seated till Ms. Perelli and the mission will leave the room.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

MS. PERELLI: Thank you very much.

Good evening. I suppose that this has been a very long day, and we are all very tired. So I'll try to keep my opening remarks rather brief, so that you can have some opportunity to ask questions.

As you know, on 17 March, the secretary-general of the United Nations received two letters of invitation to come to Iraq, one stemming from the CPA, as the occupying power, and the other one stemming from the Governing Council, as the Iraqi recognized authority via the resolutions of the Security Council.

In these letters, there were a couple of different requests. One was to -- for the U.N. to dispatch a team to basically help with the consultations and the discussions on the mechanism for the transition for the interim government. And the secretary-general appointed Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi in order to lead that initiative.

The second part of that request was a request which was extremely focused on the electoral process. It was a request for the U.N. to provide electoral assistance at the technical level in order to be able to organize and conduct the process -- the electoral process that should be finalized by January 2005, at the latest.

As with any request stemming from a member state, the normal procedure of the United Nations that results from a series of resolutions from the General Assembly is to dispatch immediately what we call a needs-assessment team in order to evaluate what type of assistance the U.N. can provide. What is the situation in the country? What are the difficulties in the process? What is the degree in which there's consensus among the different actors for the presence of the United Nations in-country? And to make recommendations to the secretary-general, both in terms of the process and in terms of the role the United Nations can play.

This type of needs assessment, as per, again, mandate of the General Assembly, is normally carried out by the division I have the pleasure of directing in New York that is conducting currently other operations around the world following the same procedure. And this is why the secretary-general appointed me to lead the electoral team in order to do this assessment and provide recommendations in terms of what -- how we can approach this process and what sort of support the United Nations can bring to it.

Many of you might know that I was also part of the team that came here in February at the request, again, of both the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council in order to evaluate whether very early elections, before June 30th, could be carried out. I have the pleasure of leading a team of experts this time that compose basically of personnel both from the division in New York -- from other field operations that we're carrying out right now -- and from sister electoral authorities around the world.

Right now, this mission is composed of Carlos Valenzuela, who has been the chief electoral officer for the majority of the large operations of the U.N. around the world and is currently a senior advisor to the Palestinian Electoral Commission -- because this commission is launching right now a process of registration in Palestine.

We are also -- we also have the pleasure of having with us Judge Santiago Aquerra (ph) of Argentina, currently a magistrate of the Federal Electoral Court of Argentina, in order precisely to provide comparative experience from another large country and important country from the third world that has a federal system and that has to organize elections in the federal system.

Sean Dunn (sp), who is my chief of Global Operations, is also with us, as is Heba Adalatiff (ph), a member of the division. And of course, we would not be able to be working without the very, very experienced interpretation of -- (inaudible) -- al-Saed (ph). We are also, obviously, accompanied by offices of UNSCOR, the United Nations security branch, whose identities, for obvious reasons, I'm not going to disclose.

As you know, the TAL, which is the regulatory framework that we are basically using in this context in order to organize the election, establishes in Article 57(b) that three elections and not one are to be conducted by January 2005. I am referring basically to the Iraqi National Assembly Election, to the Kurdistan National Assembly Election, and to the election of the governorate councils throughout Iraq.

As you may also recall from what we had been discussing in terms of the February report of the United Nations, at that time we had established that eight months were necessary in order to be able to conduct the technical preparations leading to elections after basic agreements had been established. Because the TAL has established a firm date for the elections, it has established also a timetable for the agreements, which means that if elections are to be conducted no later than the 31st of January of 2005, the agreements -- the basic agreements for the regulatory framework for the selections at the three levels have to be reached and finalized no later than May 2004, which means that there is a very -- we are talking about a very, very tight time frame in order to reach some very important agreements. And let me recall what those agreements are.

Agreement needs to be reached in terms of who is entitled to vote; who is entitled to run for these elections as a candidate, whether parties, independent candidates. Agreements need to be reached in terms of what sort of electoral system is going to be used in order to transform the vote into seats. What are going to be the units of representation for the three elections. What sort of regulatory framework there's going to be for political candidates and political organizations participating in this election. And finally, and very importantly, who is going to be organizing and conducting these elections, which has to do with the electoral authority.

Normally when you organize an election, all these agreements are in place either under the guise of one or several electoral laws. In the case of Iraq, because of the nature of the transition and because of the nature of Iraq's electoral history, all these agreements have to be reached, signed and sealed before the organization of the elections can start, which means that basically we are talking about a whole series of negotiations that have to be conducted in simultaneous in the coming weeks in order to reach these agreements.

The United Nations obviously understood that these conversations and consultations could not be carried only by the members of the Governing Council, considering the fact that the issue is too important and too foundational for the rest of the Iraqis not to participate in as open a debate as possible. And for this reason we have been meeting with actors, political actors, religious groups, associations from civil society, charitable organizations, different personalities from academia, political parties and groups that are not present in the Governing Council, as well as with the members of the Governing Council.

One of the most urgent tasks, if not THE most urgent task right now, is to reach agreement about who is going to be conducting the election because that means putting in place an administrative structure, a whole institution, in order to be able to carry out the task. Again, under normal circumstances this sort of institution preexists the preparation of the election. In this case it will have to be created as the election is being prepared and conducted.

For this reason, we had the pleasure yesterday of meeting with an electoral committee that was formed inside the Governing Council that met for the first time precisely to be able to discuss these issues, and we have presented some recommendations and proposals to that committee that are going to be discussed on Sunday by the plenary of the Governing Council. We are very, very glad that we found very high receptivity for some of the proposals of the U.N., and basically that the members seemed to be very aware of the fact that we are on a very tight time frame and therefore it is urgent to reach -- to make decisions and to reach agreements quite soon, particularly in the case of the electoral authorities that have to be put in place as late as the 30th of May, which means basically that not only the order has to be signed and the regulatory framework has to be in place, but also that the personnel needs -- or at least at a higher levels -- need to be selected -- nominated and selected. And precisely the United Nations -- and it's one of our recommendations -- has basically pushed for a very wide consultation of society, precisely for those nominations, so that the population can participate in the process as much as possible.

What is going to be the role of the United Nations? Obviously, I need to go back to New York to discuss it with my bosses, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan and with the undersecretary-general for political affairs, Kieran Prendergast, who is also the focal point for electoral activities of the U.N., (who oversees them ?).

However, before coming here, we were very clear that the elections need to be -- the Iraqi elections need to be conducted by Iraqis and by Iraqi institutions; they should not be organized or conducted by the United Nations; but that the United Nations is ready to provide a very strong technical assistance and very strong support to the Iraqi authorities that are going to be put in place. (Hence the haste ?) in the nomination of these candidates and the setting up of the institutional structures.

The United Nations will play the lead role in the technical assistance, as the main agency or lead role, will not close the process just to the United Nations. Fortunately, we are not. We are too busy to be into technical (imperialism ?). On the contrary, we have been making appeals also to other institutions that have expertise in the field of elections, in order to provide focused technical assistance for certain processes. But it is going to be the United Nations that will have the lead role of putting together the plan, together with the Iraqi electoral authorities, in order to determine what type of electoral assistance is required and who is the best suited to provide it, together with -- under the control and the vetting of the United Nations.

We are basically -- before you ask me, because basically you are going to ask me whether I have left Baghdad, yes, we have been traveling inside the country. That's why we have been for a relatively long period in country. We have gone to Erbil, to Sulimaniyah, to Kirkuk and to Basra. The rest of our travel plan, obviously, had to be interrupted because of the security -- unusual and unexpected security conditions in the country last week.

And that leads me to the second obvious question that I would ask if I were a journalist, which is, basically, what are the requirements of security for an election? Can an election be carried out under this very -- under the turmoil of insecurity as the one we have been living through the past week?

Obviously, elections and violence are not married together. And of course the U.N. is very concerned that the situation quietens down and stabilizes, in order to be able to carry out the tasks.

It is also true that basically once the electoral process starts it creates a dynamic of its own, because basically -- unless Iraqis are very different from the citizens of Asia, Africa and Latin America where we have worked in the past. Normally the majority of the citizens prefer to have a way out that is non-violent. And therefore, normally, if there is hope and if there is credibility in the process that is being launched, if the authorities are trusted, and basically if the citizens really believe that the electoral process is not something that belongs to some institution out there or to the United Nations, they will start to have some hope and start to defend their own elections. However, we are going to remain very much alert in terms of the phenomena associated with violence, which is basically the possibility of voter and candidate intimidation, and basically that will be factored in the plans and it will be factored in the plans of the electoral commission to be created.

This electoral commission for the Iraqis will be independent, will have exclusive authority over the elections and the electoral matters. It will be composed of independent citizens. And the decision which we have been discussing with our Iraqi counterparts, both inside the Governing Council and outside of the Governing Council, is that in this case there is room to create a new institution so that it doesn't carry the baggage of the past, so that it doesn't depend of the executive power, so that there are no suspicions and mistrust associated with it; because the citizens of Iraq will have to basically be able to trust the institution to carry out credible elections that genuinely reflect their choices. The United Nations is going to invest itself a lot in strengthening that institution as soon as it is created and we are going to make this recommendation to the secretary-general when we return.

Thank you.

Q (Through interpreter.) I am going to repeat the question that you have already posed, madame. Do you believe that in case violence continues or the resistance to the occupation in Iraq -- Mrs. Perelli, I am going to repeat the question that you personally posed in the beginning of your statement.

I will ask the same question that you posed yourself in the beginning of your statement. Do you really believe it is possible to conduct free and fair elections under the occupation and under the violence that has been going on in Iraq, which we call resistance to the occupation? Do you think the elections will be possible under these conditions? And if the elections are not conducted, what would be the alternative?

Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: Let me separate my answer to your question in two, because you referred to two different processes. One is conducting elections under occupation. First of all, the occupation is supposed to end on 30th of June and elections are supposed to be held in January 2005. So, technically speaking, those elections would not be conducted under occupation but under the guidance of whatever mechanism of Iraqi interim government is decided upon in the coming weeks.

However, I have a broader answer for your question about whether it's possible to conduct elections under occupation. Yes, it is. Recently, I mean, if you take -- all the processes of decolonization were basically conducted under occupation. The process in 1999, the "popular consultation" of 1999 in East Timor was created on the basis of an agreement, the 5th May agreement, between the Indonesian and the Portuguese government in order to determine whether or not East Timor would continue to be part of Indonesia or not. And for the TImorese, the Indonesians were the occupier.

So historically, yes, elections have been conducted under occupation, and in general, elections in any transition are conducted under less than ideal conditions. In some cases it's not occupation, in some cases it is a military junta or other forms of repression or other remnants of violence.

In terms of the violence, that's a different story. In any post- conflict situation, the countries have never stabilized so much when elections occur that violence is totally absent. And in fact, even in non-post-conflict situations, in countries that have a relatively stabilized, semi-violent situation, a la Colombia, elections have been held. The problem is the level of violence. And for me the most important thing is going to be basically whether voters can express freely their will, given the security environment, whether candidates will not be intimidated to run and express their choices clearly and not be afraid in order to express their views, and basically what is going to be the level and the kind of security environment we have. Obviously, you cannot have -- mortar bombs and ballots do not marry well. And I'm not being flippant, but I mean it depends again on what type of security environment.

But to the first part of your question, yes, historically they have been conducted everywhere under occupation.

Q Ms. Perelli, I'm Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. If you'll allow me, I just have two questions. The first is, the electoral framework that needs to be agreed upon by May, will this be formalized in an electoral law; and will there have to be regulations promulgated to set up how political parties will be regulated and to set up the independent commission? Will that be -- will that have to be signed into law by the CPA, and if so how will that affect the legitimacy of that electoral commission in the eyes of Iraqis?

My second question, if you don't mind, Ms. Perelli. In the past three weeks that you've been in Iraq, you seem to have met -- your team has met, if I may say, with some political -- with many representatives of people who are essentially political elites. Have you had any interactions -- has your team had any interactions with ordinary Iraqi citizens? What are they telling you about the electoral process? Are they aware of the electoral timetable, and what is the level of optimism and the level of knowledge they expressed about the electoral process during three weeks that -- where violence has really taken the center stage?

Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: In terms of the regulatory framework first, we have recommended that -- I mean, there are two schools of thought regarding how you put together a regulatory framework. In some countries you have everything very tidy into a piece of legislation called the electoral law. In other countries you have a whole series of regulations of different nature and different historical background that regulate the electoral process.

What we have recommended here is -- for Iraq -- is that because so many negotiations have to be held in simultaneous, if you wait until all the agreements are made so that basically you can put them together in one simple, very elegant law, you run the risk of stopping any other preparations you might start because of waiting for that very elegant piece of legislation. And as you can see by the way in which I'm dressed, I'm not very much into elegance anyways, so I have basically recommended that they separate the different pieces of legislation so that you can -- we can start working on those.

Some of these pieces of legislation are crucial. For instance, the first piece of legislation that we need to have is the one on the electoral authorities. We have recommended that this piece of legislation obviously will have to be signed -- technically would have to be signed by the CPA in consultation with the Governing Council because this is the situation right now, but we have also and particularly my friend, Magistrate Courqueda (ph), has been looking into the historical legal precedence to these issues.

And basically most of the electoral authorities that are created in periods of transition, of regime transition, they are created by transitory authorities necessarily because otherwise you can never have the -- it's the problem of the chicken and the egg. If you wait until you have a legitimate government in place in order to be able to sign this sort of legislation, because these institutions and laws are instrumental to creating that legitimate government, you will never be able to have your legitimate government to start with.

So there is a variety of institutions and of electoral processes that have been created by decree, obviously, or by transitory interim orders. Even here in the Middle East, if you recall, in 1995, all the legislation in order to create the Palestinian Authority and basically to be able to conduct the elections was interim legislation that is used for only one time, and afterwards to be discussed in the natural organ where such things are discussed, which is a parliament freely elected by the people. And therefore, the National Assembly and the -- the National and Constituent Assembly would be the natural place where afterwards all these laws, like the electoral law, the political party law, the citizenship law, the electoral authority, need to be discussed, because among other things, in a normal parliament all these laws are considered (organic ?) laws or special laws that require a two-third majority of the votes anyway. So, yes, these are interim measures.

The second -- your second question; yes, we have met with what you would call many elite actors. We have also made a special effort to meet with organizations and actors from the grassroots, and that's why -- basically people who work in orphanages, people who work in charitable organizations, in centers for mothers and children, because we are particularly interested in knowing the views of the Iraqis.

We were planning to do a lot more. We had been invited precisely to discuss with normal people inside a mosque, for instance; we had been invited to several locations where we could have had a lot more interaction with the normal citizen, what we would call in Spanish, "el ciudadano de pie" -- the citizen on foot. However, the security environment has not permitted to have such frank dialogue, and that is why we consider this is the first of many visits and it's a first step of a process.

By all means, we cannot consider that we are experts in Iraq or that we know it all in terms of how the electoral process is going to evolve. However, if I may extrapolate from other experiences, and if you consider that this year alone my division is working in 58 different countries, from Indonesia to Mexico, so -- and they include some of the very, very, very traumatic post-conflict experiences like Congo -- the Democratic Republic of Congo, like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire -- the list is long of very traumatic situations in which we work -- I would predict that normal citizens do not have enough information right now about the electoral process.

The elections are not necessarily on the radar screen except as some sort of target associated with sovereignty and with normalcy -- that a huge information campaign needs to be launched so that they can participate actively in this debate. That's why want to broaden the consultations and we want to broaden the instances of participation of the population in nominating authorities for the electoral authorities, in being able to have open fora of discussion in order to see what type of system they want to have.

Because at the end of the day, if the citizens do not believe in this process, no matter how many technical experts you throw into a process, the process is going to fail. At the end of the day it is the citizen who makes the process.

Q (Through interpreter.) Fallah (sp), secretary of Al-Manah (sp) newspaper. I have two questions, Ms. Perelli, the first one regarding your statement on having met many organizations, political parties and different sectors of the Iraqi society. Have you met all those people? Why have you met only those people? Have you met public organizations? Have you met political parties of a different kind? You state that you strive for the conduct of fair and free elections in a manner to which all Iraqis aspire. Why, then, the marginalization of many sectors of the Iraqi society? Why so many visits to understand the public opinion in the elections? This is the first question.

Second, with regard to the electoral -- to the elections committee established by the Governing Council. You know well, and everybody knows, that the Governing Council is a body that was not elected by the Iraqi people. How could it possibly establish an elections committee that would supervise the elections? It does not have the legitimacy by the people, or by the United Nations or the CPA. The persons who are going to be selected, they have to be persons with integrity, et cetera, et cetera. If the Governing Council selects those people, how will the Iraqi citizen play his role, particularly since the Governing Council is a body that is not elected by the Iraqi people?

Thank you. Q Again, two questions -- the number two seems to be prevalent in this audience.

In terms of who we have met. No, I have made it my special personal concern to be able to meet particularly with parties that are not in the Governing Council. I have made it my personal concern also to meet with people who are not in political parties, because one of the things we have noticed is that among many Iraqis, the anti-political-party sentiment is extremely strong, for historical reasons that everybody can understand. So that's why we have put such an emphasis in being able to meet with all sectors of society; of announcing that we were arriving, basically, and that we wanted to meet with women organizations, with religious groups, with people who feel that they have been marginalized from the process, with academics, with members of professional associations.

In our consultations I'm pretty sure that we have not excluded voluntarily anybody. People have self-excluded from this dialogue, but the invitation stands open from the United Nations. I'm ready to meet with whoever, wherever.

My main concern is more than with meeting with parties and organizations, it's meeting with a lot more Iraqis, being able to go into the markets and into the coffee shops, where you usually discuss politics and do business in politics.

I'm particularly eager to meet with the youth of Iraq because I think that it is very -- the voice of the youth of Iraq is absent from this debate right now. It's basically most of the time this debate is conducted by people like yourself, myself, who are already starting to have, in my case, gray hair. And it is their future and it is their country. And it is basically a generation that has been raised through two wars, the fall of -- a regime of fear, the fall of a regime of fear, an occupation, and uncertainty in the future. So basically, I would be particularly eager to meet with youth groups.

Unfortunately, as you know, the security situation, which (I ?) have not invented, has basically provided some constraints in our action. And that's why I'm saying this is only the first of many visits.

In terms of the Governing Council, the reason why we had so many broad consultations outside of the Governing Council is precisely because it is not an elected body. But right now it is the only recognized body that exists, that can provide the sort of fora for discussion of the institutions --

Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- Mrs. Perelli --

MS. PERELLI: Hey, hold on a second. (Chuckles.)

Q (Through interpreter.) The Governing Council does not take the trouble to start a dialogue with the political parties and powers with whom you would like to meet personally. Are those from within? They are the ones who represent the people. What you say is impeccable, but the Governing Council does not want these parties and these actors to have a role in these consultations. This is only a comment, ma'am.

MS. PERELLI: I'm -- what I'm referring to in terms of representative people -- right now I'm talking from a purely legal, institutional perspective, without opening any sort of judgment as to the legitimacy of the body, and I know that the body is challenged. What I am referring to is basically that under the Security Council resolutions, the two -- while the occupation lasts, the two institutions that exist right now here is the CPA and the Governing Council. And it is impossible for us, as the United Nations, to deal only with some -- an issue that is so intimately Iraqi -- only with the occupier. And that's why we entered into consultations with the Governing Council.

What I'm also concerned -- it might be from the way in which I made my presentation -- is they created a (legislative ?) committee, not the commission. The commission has -- electoral commission has not been created. And in fact one of the recommendations that we have done is that precisely the U.N. gets heavily involved in the selection and the vetting of the candidates for this commission, and that these candidates be the product of basically a wide consultation in the process of selection, precisely because we know that challenges to the representativeness of the Governing Council exist, and we do not want to leave such a key important institution at the hands of a few actors that might be challenged. And this is going to be -- this needs to be the electoral commission of all Iraqis, not of one sector or another.

Q Jim Krane with the Associated Press. I'm just wondering if you could just maybe go though the timetable -- it was a little bit unclear in your statement when you want to have these electoral laws or these interim electoral laws written -- and then if you could just take us through to the hand-over date, June 30th, and then beyond that, just sort of your proposed or ideal timetable for preparing for elections, what steps you need to take and maybe some dates, just some -- you know, some bullet points for us. Thanks.

MS. PERELLI: Yeah. The United Nations in February established two processes or divided the electoral process in two processes. One was to create the regulatory framework to determine what the modalities of the election were going to be that require political agreement. The other is the technical preparations for the elections. The technical preparations for the elections cannot start until such time as those agreements are in place, because otherwise you would be preparing yourself for nothing without knowing what is it that you are really preparing.

You cannot, for instance, create a voters' roll if you don't know who is entitled to vote, therefore who can be included in the voters' roll. You cannot register candidates if you don't know whether you -- what type of formal requirements are needed in order to be a candidate. And for this reason it is that you need the formal agreements in place -- what in other countries you would call the electoral laws in place before you can organize elections.

What happened was that at the time, because we are talking about processes, we were talking about eight months after reaching those agreements. When the time assigned, the TAL established as a condition that basically the elections should occur no later than January 2005. Therefore, if we count backwards -- and we were not joking when we said that we needed eight months to prepare an election, and that is really a calendar with no -- (word inaudible) -- and no contingency in it, basically, if you count backwards you're going to see that basically by the end of May you need to have all the regulations in place in order to be able to start preparing the election. Because these negotiations need to be conducted all at the same time -- normally these are things that would take a normal parliament years to discuss if they were in a democratic regime under normal circumstances, electoral reform takes a long time. In this case, these pieces of legislation need to be conducted in simultaneous.

However, what we have recommended to both the CPA and the Governing Council on the one hand, and to all the other actors with whom we have met, is that we established some sort of order of priority of what is required first so that we reach that agreement first in order to be able to start working in the preparation of the preparations, not in the preparation of elections. And for this reason, the first priority right now, while all the other aspects are being discussed, is to reach an agreement on the electoral authority, because when we talk about the electoral authority we are talking about basically not only a board of commissioners that make policy, but an executive branch that needs to conduct and organize elections, and that needs to cover the whole country to the level of the tiniest hamlet, because we cannot disenfranchise voters. That means a huge process of institution building, capacity building, but also recruitment, but also training. For this reason it is that we are insisting so much on having the electoral authority first.

Obviously, if the Iraqis want to have their elections by January 2005, the whole package needs to be agreed upon by the end of May. And I insist a lot on this because it is impossible to have elections in 2005 if the institutional arrangements are not reached right now, in the coming weeks.

What is going to happen next? While these agreements are being reached, basically on who is entitled to vote, how will we regulate that -- because remember that there are norms in the TAL that establish changes to the nationality law of 1923 and 1964, for instance. But we need to regulate that while we determine whether, for instance, the Iraqis abroad will be entitled to vote, for instance, because all that requires preparation. All these agreements need to be reached while we agree on how it is -- what sort of electoral system. And there are very, very, very wide opinions on the electoral system, whether it's going to be proportional representation, on a single constituency, multi-member districts, single-member districts, very, very tiny. All these things that have political and social implications for the people need to be discussed not only by the Governing Council and the CPA and the U.N., but by the people themselves.

In the meantime, we are going to help set up the electoral authority in place, establish their structures, their initiative procedures, the standard operating procedures of a commission. Then, once the agreement on how the electorate -- who is entitled to vote -- then you can proceed to establish the voters roll, the registry of voters. And you know in Iraq the practice, which was a very strange practice because it would not be approved by international standards today -- the practice before was to extract a registry, a voters roll from the census. That violates half a dozen conventions of census around the world, and it violates half a dozen standards in terms of elections, in terms of privacy of the citizens and not being able to be intimidated.

So basically you need to make a decision of how is it that you're going to build your voters roll, whether you are going to use a ration card, whether you are going to go for an electoral registration, which is a huge logistic operation. You need to register, determine who is entitled to run for this election, and register parties and candidates, and establish the rules for campaigning and open a period of campaigning, and monitor that the campaigning of the candidates and the parties are -- follow exactly the procedures established by the electoral commission.

You need then to establish where is it that the citizens are going to be voting, what is your plan for -- your operational plan for the election itself, but also how is it that the votes are going to be counted. Where is it that they are going to be counted? By what method are they going to be counted? And then how it is that you're going to be doing the tallying and the conversion if you do not -- if you determine a system that so requires.

You have to establish a security plan for the election.

You have to establish -- for me, the most important thing in an election, you need to make sure that the voters and the citizens know exactly what is it that they're voting for, why is this process occurring in this manner, what are the warranties of this process, who they can appeal to, how they can appeal to, and why is it that it is important their participation -- which means civic and voter education at the same time. You need to train the poll workers. And if we're talking about poll workers, you have to consider that, depending on the number of polling stations that you are going to have in a country like this one -- but basically we are talking about for polling day you're going to need probably between 70,000 and 130,000 poll workers working in this election, fully trained and able to operate in a difficult environment. That's why we are saying the minimal time that you need is eight months.

On top of that, some decisions need to be made, because remember that at the very beginning I said that the (time ?) determines that there's not going to be one election, but three at the same time. So the Kurdistan National Assembly is going to hold its own election. And as you know, in Kurdistan the method used right now is proportional representation, single district. And right now the parliament of Kurdistan is discussing an electoral reform to their law in order to remove the threshold of 7 percent, and lower it.

But we haven't established how is it, by what method the councils at the governate level are going to be elected, and that needs to be determined, because although they are going to go to the same polling station, voters are going to be voting either for the Kurdistan National Assembly election or for the governate council election, at the same time as they are voting for the national assembly of Iraq. All that is comprised in an operational (event ?), and that's why I'm saying the time is very scarce and there is no time for dallying. I wish there were.

One last question.

Q (Through interpreter.) Through your visits to the many Iraqi cities and your encounters with many different actors, do you believe that the Iraqi people are already prepared to deal with all these little processes within the electoral process, in light of the fact that these elections are being conducted for the first time ever in Iraq? Second, what, in your views, is the percentage of success for the electoral process in Iraq? Thank you.

MS. PERELLI: I participated in elections in many countries where not only it was the first time there was an election, but the population was -- 70 to 90 percent of the population was illiterate. If the citizens, if the people really care about the electoral process, there's no magic there; it's a relatively simple process to understand because basically what you need to do is build an institution that is solid, that can carry out these tasks.

And as we all know, in Iraq we are not talking of a country that is backward; you have excellent -- people with excellent skills. The problem is that they don't have experience in organizing elections because, obviously, calling free elections what Saddam was organizing would be a stretch of the imagination and abuse of the language. But basically, those skills can be transferred.

At the level of the voters, if the voters care, they will participate. And they will learn, because voting is not such a complex issue that cannot be learned.

What is more important is not the details of the election but the principles of the election. I think that the most important thing that the citizens of Iraq have to realize is that they are not going to be electing any sort of assembly; they are electing an assembly that will have to write the first constitution of the country in the post-Saddam era and therefore, what that entails and what type of characteristics their representative needs to have have, more than the mechanics of the vote. The mechanics of the vote are relatively simple for the voters; it is the principles of the whole thing that matter.

Again, with the issue of your second question, what is -- the percentage of success in this election, yes, voters are now extremely important because it gives a measure of the confidence of the voters, it gives a measure of the security environment, it gives a measure of how interested they are in the election and whether they consider it some sort of foreign imposition or a process of their own.

But it's not only the percentage of the vote that is important; the success of an election is measured also by the quality of the participation. If tomorrow, through the media, we start having people discussing the election, discussing the issues behind the election in a passionate way, as you have to do it in a democracy, than the quality of this electoral process is going to be enhanced because at the end of the day, the mechanics of elections, putting a ballot in a ballot box, you could do that under Saddam also; but it was not only the rate of participation that counted, it's the importance you attribute to your vote as basically the vehicle to express your voice. And that is the message that basically you should be giving us as the media, by the way.

Thank you very much.



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