Vol. 5 Num 549 Mon. December 12, 2005  

Security for Thursday's Polls
Iraq announces border closure

Iraq's government announced yesterday stringent security measures for the upcoming parliamentary elections, including the closure of all borders and airports, an extension of curfew hours and a ban on travel across provincial boundaries.

The Interior Ministry said the measures would take effect Tuesday two days ahead of the vote and last until early Saturday.

Under the restrictions, the curfew will be moved from midnight until 10 p.m. and last until 6 a.m.

All airports and borders will be closed from midnight Monday until 7 a.m. Saturday.

Iraqis vote Thursday in a watershed election for a parliament to steer the war-torn country towards full sovereignty nearly three years after the 2003 US-led invasion.

The ballot, the third election this year, marks a new beginning for Iraq following the chaos of a lightning drive to oust Saddam Hussein, two transitional governments and the adoption of a constitution in October.

When the dust settles on the inevitable political horse trading, Iraqis will be left with a four-year parliament capable of carving out a new direction for the country, which is teetering on the tightrope of inter-communal tensions.

Moves towards democracy, marked by well-organised ballots and determined turnout, is a cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East with Washington increasingly focused on an ultimate exit strategy from Iraq.

But the success of the election and future prospects of stability hinge on turnout among the fallen Sunni elite, who boycotted the January 30 election for a transitional parliament, Iraq's first free vote in half a century.