Niqash: Can you describe the political components that will be competing in provincial elections in your province?
Al-Musawi: There are 76 political parties and organizations registered in the province who will submit candidates for the elections, including 11 independent candidates and seven coalitions. The number of candidates in the coalition lists range from three to seven, all of whom are competing for 27 council seats.
Niqash: How many candidates are standing in total?
Al-Musawi: The total number in the approved list is 1179, including 230 female candidates. The IHEC did not receive any list not meeting the legal requirements, especially regarding the necessary 25% female proportion in order to meet the female quota of seven seats. There are still legal procedures [to be completed], related to submitting the lists to the accountability and justice commission… This is a routine procedure to prevent those not legally qualified from being nominated.
Niqash: Some parties have complained about the difficulty in finding female candidates to meet the women’s quota. Is this the case in Karbala?
Al-Musawi: Yes, some parties were late in submitting their lists because they were not able to find suitable female candidates. But in the end they succeeded and submitted their lists. I think it is a common problem all over Iraq.
Niqash: How many people are entitled to vote? Has there been an increase in the number of voting centres compared to 2005?
Al-Musawi: The original number of voters in the province is 518,000. The number for the forthcoming election will become 540,000 when births from 1991 are added. We have 214 ballot centres across the province in districts and towns, all ready to receive voters. During the 2005 parliamentary elections the number of centres was 202, but this number has been increased alongside the increase in the number of voters.
Niqash: Will you ask for the help of school teaching staff as you did during the 2005 elections?
Al-Musawi: Yes, they will support the IHEC and will monitor elections after receiving the necessary training.
Niqash: Do you think that the end of January 2009 is sufficient time to finalize preparations and hold elections?
Al-Musawi: We have three months before the elections, if this date is approved by the council of ministers. I believe that we have enough time.
Niqash: What procedures are in place to stop election violations?
Al-Musawi: There weren’t many violations [in past elections] and we have investigated them. I don’t think that these elections will witness the same problems, but we will open the door for people to complain against violations of any nature.
Niqash: How many election monitors have been approved?
Al-Musawi: Until now we have not registered monitors. The timetable contains many procedures and this issue is among the subsequent steps to be taken.
Niqash: From your experiences, are parties in these elections similar to those of the last elections?
Al-Musawi: I find them completely different from the 2005 elections. New political parties have registered and those participating in these elections are more representative of the political life.
Niqash: This means that you are expecting a major change in political influence in the city?
Al-Musawi: Of course there will be a major change in power after the provincial elections, but it will be a change for the better because new movements will be integrated into the political life of the city.