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Iraq Begins Next Phase of Plan After Successful Election

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2005 – By any measure, the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections for a national assembly were a success. Members of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq said the elections exceeded their expectations.

But what happens next?

The process is spelled out as part of the Transitional Administrative Law, the document that governed how the elections were carried out and charts the road ahead.

Tallying the vote began immediately after the polls closed in Iraq. Tally sheets will go to the national center, and officials there will compile the votes. IECI officials said they should be able to announce results of the elections within 10 days.

The 275-member national assembly probably will convene sometime around the end of February or beginning of March, Iraqi officials said. The assembly must elect a president and two deputy presidents and appoint a prime minister and government ministers. The assembly will then transform into a constitutional convention.

The assembly must present a constitution no later than Aug. 15, although there is a provision in the Transitional Administrative Law that allows one six-month delay.

A national plebiscite on the new constitution must be held no later than Oct. 15. If the people approve the constitution, then elections for the first government under that constitution must be held no later than Dec. 15.

On the security side, training, equipping and supporting Iraqi forces will remain the No. 1 priority. Iraqi security personnel handled the stresses of the election quite well, said officials. Iraqi army units and national police units at the battalion level and below are gaining experience and capabilities. Plans call for coalition forces to "embed" more advisor units to Iraqi army and police units while continuing to train border police and other national-level police assets.

Iraqi officials hope that building local police forces will be easier following the resounding vote for democracy on Jan. 30. Local police forces have borne the brunt of terrorist attacks in the past months, and some have simply dissolved in the face of terrorist intimidation.

Officials said the election was a good beginning to the process, but this is no time to rest on laurels. Much work remains to be done, they emphasized.

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