Farid Ayar, spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said the panel had decided that elections would take place at the end of January.

The vote is seen as a major step towards building democracy after years of war and dictatorship.

Ongoing violence in areas,  including the resistance in Falluja and Ramadi, as well as northern Mosul, would not preclude elections from taking place there, Ayar said.

 

"No Iraqi province will be excluded because the law considers Iraq as one constituency and therefore it is not legal to exclude any province," he said.

The Iraqi voters will choose representatives for a 275-member national assembly, provincial councils and the national council for Kurdistan.

 

Vote boycott

 

Voter registration is off to a rocky start, though, as dozens of Iraqi political parties and groups have vowed to boycott what they call unfair and illegitimate elections.

Critics say planned elections pose
a grave risk to the future of Iraq

 

Imam Khalesi University, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the National Trend Movemen, the Iraqi National Foundational Conference, Iraqi Turkomen Front, and the Christian Democratic Party were among some 46 parties that declared a boycott of the vote.

 

The AMS said in a statement that the elections posed a grave risk to the future of Iraq as it would undermine Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarrai, a member of the AMS, told Aljazeera: "The AMS, the Iraqi National Foundational Conference and other groups describe the forthcoming elections under US occupation as a farce and that it will not be truly representative neither will it express the ambitions of the Iraqi people."

Registration

For his part, electoral commission spokesman Ayar said 122 political parties out of 195 applications were accepted and registered for the elections.

The commission has asked the United Nations to send international monitors for the elections.

He said the number of UN experts who had already arrived in Iraq was about 35 but said "we need as many monitors as possible".