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Additional bans, shutdowns announced for Iraq vote

[JURIST] Iraq's Interior Minister Saturday announced additional security measures for the pending January 30 election as insurgent groups increased their attacks and vowed to disrupt the vote. Baghdad International Airport will now be closed from January 29-30, nighttime curfews already in force in Baghdad and other cities will be extended, travel between provinces will be stopped, citizens will be forbidden from carying weapons and and private cars will be banned from the roads. Falah Naquib acknowledged, however, that there is no guarantee that these measures would be fully effective, even with the promised support of US forces [BBC report]. The UK Independent has more. Meanwhile a new tape supposedly by militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [BBC profile] says his al-Qaeda linked group has "declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it", calling calling on Sunni Muslims to oppose it, which many are already doing by boycotts, a move which is likely to result in formal power shifting to the Shias, a minority in the rest of the Arab world who make up 60% of Iraq's own population. BBC News has more.

In other Iraqi election developments, party campaigning continues on Iraqi media, even if many candidates have hesitated to conduct personal campaigns - or even to disclose their candidacies - because of security concerns. Many parties are pushing their party "number" on the ballot list - for instance, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's coalition [campaign website in Arabic] is 7; the Islamic Daawa Party [campaign website in Arabic] associated with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is 179; the Iraqi Communist Party [campaign website in Arabic] is 324; the Constitutional Monarchy Movement [campaign website in English and Arabic] led by Sharif Ali Hussein, the cousin of the last king of Iraq, is 349. It is, however, unclear what percentage of Iraq's 15 million eligible voters will be able and willing to vote on polling day, although the legitimacy of the results hinges in large part on a good turnout.

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