Campaigning Begins Ahead of Iraq Parliamentary Vote
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
One month from today, Iraqi voters go to the polls for the third time this year; this time, to elect a new parliament. Despite concerns over an increase in insurgent attacks, Iraqi officials are hoping for a strong turnout from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Baghdad.
Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
PETER KENYON reporting:
On a Baghdad street corner, an Iraqi work crew slathers glue on the backs of campaign posters featuring deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi who broke away from the dominant Shiite religious alliance to form his own bloc for the December 15th elections. There are nearly 230 parties or blocs competing for 275 parliamentary seats, but analysts expect a handful of alliances to lead the way starting with the United Iraqi Alliance, the religious Shiite bloc. Besides losing Chalabi, the UIA has gained firebrand Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, broadening its appeal. To the north, the Kurds have set aside internal differences to present a unified front. A few secular slates could also do well, including one headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
The emergence of Sunni alliances has encouraged Iraqi and US officials, hoping for a clear sign that the largely Sunni insurgency is finally being isolated from the general Sunni population. While much of the voting is expected to break down along sectarian or ethnic lines, political debate is starting to favor issues over identity. One of the early signs of this has been growing dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jafari's government. Although Shiites are pleased to be in power, Iraqis such as 45-year-old businessman Abu Masan(ph) are beginning to link their daily problems to the performance of the government.
Mr. ABU MASAN (Businessman): (Through Translator) We want security. We want a prosperous future, if not for ourselves, then at least for the sake of our children. The most important things we need are electricity and water.
KENYON: As he glues up another poster, worker Abu Abdullah Ganen(ph) contemplates the image of Ahmed Chalabi before him.
Mr. ABU ABDULLAH GANEN: (Through Translator) I will certainly not vote for him. He used to make many promises, but the result was nothing.
KENYON: Security forces are on high alert for attacks. Several more Iraqis were killed early today.
Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Baghdad.
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