First free Iraqi election begins; insurgents strike

Sunday, January 30, 2005

IRAQ –The first free elections in over 50 years have begun in Iraq, via proportional representation, to choose members for a 275-strong assembly that will then draw up a constitution.

Interim President Ghazi Al-Yawar was among the first to cast a ballot.

However violence has already begun to overshadow the event, both inside Iraq and abroad, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up close to a polling place in western Baghdad, and a riot and bomb scare in Sydney, Australia.

According to police reports four people were killed and at least nine injured in the Baghdad bombing. A total of at least 36 people have so far been killed in Iraq today in various suicide bombing since the opening of the polls.

As well as suicide bombings, insurgents have used mortars to attack the people. In southern Baghdad they killed at least two people, and in Hilla one person was killed. Mortar rounds have also been fired on other cities, including Mosul and Baquba.

28,000 polling booths in 5,578 stations opened at 7 am (local time), closely guarded by both coalition troops and Iraqi security forces. Turn out has so far been described as “sporadic”, with queues in Shia areas but few people voting in Sunni areas.

“Thank God, thank God.” said the Interim President, “Blessed are the Iraqi elections. We greet all Iraqi people and urge them not to give up their rights, to vote for Iraq, elect Iraq and not to give up on Iraq”

“Deep in my heart, I feel that Iraqis deserve free elections,” he went on, “This will be our first step towards joining the free world and being a democracy that Iraqis will be proud of.”

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