The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is organising the vote outside Iraq, has forecast that up to 40,000 of Australia's Iraqi population of around 90,000 will register during the week-long process which started on Monday.

 

A spokeswoman for the IOM said on Tuesday that the registration figure of more than 1000 was low but said the pace was expected to pick up later as many Iraqi exiles here were working and were more likely to sign up at the weekend.

 

Registration closes on Sunday.

 

"It was on the low side but we are not surprised. We are expecting most people to come on the weekend when they don't have to work," the spokeswoman said.

 

The election process in Australia has been criticised as voting is only being organised in the main cities of Sydney and Melbourne, plus the remote town of Shepparton in Victoria state, which has a large Iraqi community.

 

This means about 9000 Iraqis in Western Australia state have to travel at least 2750km if they want to register and vote.

 

Voting will take place between 28 and 30 January.