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Early Voting Begins in Iraq

Iraq's provincial Election Day is on Saturday, but thousands of Iraqis--most of them employed by the country's security forces--have already cast their ballots, according to the New York Times.

The Times reports that approximately 615,000 Iraqis went to the polls on Wednesday, and violence was minimal. An official from the Minister of Interior announced that two police officers were killed by gunmen while guarding a polling center south of Kirkuk, but aside from that the voting has gone smoothly.

The reason for the early voting, according to government officials, is to ensure that security forces will be on duty protecting polling stations on Election Day, when approximately 14 million Iraqis are eligible to vote. In a speech on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said that “the arrangements we are seeing today are a slap in the face to those
who are betting that Iraqis will not go to the ballot box because they
are despairing.”

Nevertheless, security on Saturday is expected to be very tight. Reuters is reporting that Iraq will close its borders, shut down its airports, ban most vehicles and deploy thousands of security forces. In a Baghdad news conference, Major-General Aydin Khalid--head of Iraq's electoral security committee--told reporters, "We have enough security forces, they are well trained and they will protect every single one of the polling stations."

In Iraq's first election in three years, voters will choose between more than 14,000 candidates running for 440 seats in 14 provinces.



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