4 December 2003

U.S. Rejects Iraqi Plan to Hold Census by Summer

Iraqi census officials devised a detailed plan to count the country's entire population next summer and prepare a voter roll that would open the way to national elections in September. But American officials say they rejected the idea, and the Iraqi Governing Council members say they never saw the plan to consider it.

The practicality of national elections is now the subject of intense debate among Iraqi and American officials, who are trying to move forward on a plan to give Iraqis sovereignty next summer. As the American occupation officials rejected the plan to compile a voter roll rapidly, they also argued to the Governing Council that the lack of a voter roll meant national elections were impractical.

The American plan for Iraqi sovereignty proposes instead a series of caucus-style, indirect elections.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric, is calling for national elections next June, not the indirect balloting specified in the American plan for turning over control of the country. But American officials, and some Iraqis say the nation is not ready for national elections, in part because the logistics are too daunting.

In October, Nuha Yousef, the census director, finished the plan for a quick census, which lays out the timetable in tabular form over several pages.

'After processing the data, the most important thing is the election roll, and that would be available Sept. 1,' she said. Full results, she added, would come in December.

One American official acknowledged in an interview that American authorities had been aware of the quick census plan but rejected it.

Informed of the proposal this week, several members of the Governing Council who advocated a direct national ballot next June 30 said they were upset that they had not seen it. The Census Bureau said it had delivered the plan to the Governing Council on Nov. 1, but apparently it was lost in the bureaucracy.

Lost in the bureaucracy? Proconsul Bremer told the IGC there could be no elections without a census and then persuaded them to unelections in June when the census is going to be ready in September?

This is deceit of the first water. The technical problems do not exist. Iraq is already divided into 18 governorates whose boundaries are well-known - so well-known they are being used for the unelections under the Bremer plan. If Bremer 'forgot' to tell the IGC about this then he should resign for incompetence. It passes belief that the able and distinguished viceroy did not ask the census director the earliest time that a census and electoral roll could be ready.

There must be at least a dozen ways to elect delegates from the governorates by using the census. It is not practicalities but the Bush cartel's fear of the election outcome that is behind Bremer's plan.

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