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Mosul Voters Urged to 'Set Aside Fear'

Civilians and military teams in last-minute drive to get people to come out on election day.
By Mohammed Alban

Despite the unstable security situation in the northern city of Mosul, preparations are still being made to ensure the January 30 elections go as smoothly as possible.


United States forces began distributing leaflets early in the morning of January 29, urging people to come out and vote on both sides of the city, whose eastern and western parts are divided by the river Tigris.


Leaflets picked up by an IWPR reporter bore the slogan, “Set aside fear and go for the elections.”


They contained information about locations of polling stations and included a map of the city so voters could easily find the sites. There will be 45 voting centres on the east of the Tigris and 30 on the west side.


The city was tense on the eve of elections, as army snipers took up position around the city and US military units patrolled the streets.


Mosul has been one of the most volatile areas in northern Iraq. In December, a suicide bomber penetrated an American base, killing 22 people, including 14 US soldiers. And earlier this week, a tractor bomb left 15 Iraqis dead in the city of Sinjar, near Mosul.


Local election officials are also trying to get out the vote, driving around Mosul and using loudspeakers to broadcast information about the polling sites.


Almost all 700 election workers in Mosul resigned, and the authorities have been scrambling to find replacements. Election officials in the city are offering a special 500 US dollar payment to anyone prepared to do the job and have also asked for volunteers to come from other parts of Iraq.


Answering that call, about 50 election workers from the southeastern city of Nassriyah headed to Mosul on January 29. According to Muhammed Qasim, a spokesman for the electoral commission office in Nassriyah, the city has also sent 250 trained staff to help out the western province of Anbar.


Because of the violence, residents in Mosul and Anbar have not yet registered to vote, and instead will register and vote at the same time.


Mohammed Alben is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.


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