Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Hussein Hindawi, head of Iraq's electoral commission, said more sophisticated campaigning, better media coverage and an increase in the number of polling stations in some of Iraq's more lawless provinces will ensure that at least two-thirds of Iraqis turn out to vote.

 

"I think turnout will be even higher than in the referendum in October, when it was 64%," he said.

 

Hindawi said people in Baghdad and in the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh and Diyala, which have borne the brunt of violence, would find voting much easier in the 15 December poll.

 

Sunni boycott

 

Many Sunni Arabs boycotted January's election out of either fear or disgust at their loss of influence under the occupation, turning towns and cities like Falluja and Ramadi into virtual ghost towns on polling day and reducing turnout to a trickle.

 

Iraqis voted on their new
constitution in October

Things had improved somewhat by October, when Iraqis voted on their new constitution.

 

"In the last election there were less than 20 election centres in Anbar. In the referendum there were 144 centres and now I think there will be more than 160," Hindawi said.

 

"Turnout in Anbar province was 31% in the referendum. The security situation is better in Ramadi, so participation will be better, regardless of who people vote for."

 

More campaigning

 

He said there was more electioneering on television and more campaign posters on the streets than in January, when some 8.5 million Iraqis – 58% of the electorate - turned out to vote in the country's first democratic election for 50 years.

 

Then, Iraqis were voting for an interim government whereas this time they will choose a parliament for a full four-year term, making it arguably more significant.

 

Voters can choose between 231 lists - some coalitions, some of them parties and others made up of independent candidates.

 

On the streets of Baghdad, some were less than enamoured by the prospect of voting for the third time in 11 months.

 

Apprehension 

 

"There is no need to spend time on something which ends in nothing"

Afiya al-Neimy,
Prospective voter

"I will take part," said 38-year-old shop owner Abdul Karim in a resigned tone. "But this is becoming a routine. Also, there are huge numbers of lists to choose from. You can easily get misled and confused about whom to choose."

 

Noor Kamil, a 25-year-old worker at a tourism company in the capital, said she would not vote. "I didn't take part in the last election, nor in the referendum and I will not take part in the next one because I don't want to have regrets," she said. "I don't want to choose someone who might then disappoint me."

 

Ghina, a 32-year-old government employee, said she would vote for former prime minister Iyad Allawi "even though my brother does not want me to go" to the polling station.

 

Afiya al-Neimy, 32, said she did not plan to vote: "There is no need to spend time on something which ends in nothing."