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Election all but assured for Saddam

An Iraqi man paints large banners supporting Saddam Hussein.
An Iraqi man paints large banners supporting Saddam Hussein.

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CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the upcoming Iraqi referendum on Saddam Hussein as president. (October 14)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- With his future uncertain in the face of threatened U.S. military action, one thing seems all but guaranteed for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein: victory in Tuesday's presidential referendum.

In 1995, the last time his presidency was put to a vote, 99.96 percent of voters cast their ballot for Saddam.

Now, as then, Saddam is running unopposed. The choices on the ballot for 11.5 million voters are "yes" or "no." It's an easy choice in more ways than one; those who vote "no" could face execution.

Dissenters say the Iraqi people don't support their leader but will vote for him because they fear him. Statistically speaking, one would have to ask 2,500 people before finding an eligible voter who didn't vote for Saddam in 1995.

This election comes at a crucial time for Saddam, who became president in 1979.

President Bush has talked of "regime change" in Iraq, and he secured a mandate from Congress last week to use force to rid the country of its weapons of mass destruction.

Bush also is seeking a tough new resolution from the U.N. Security Council.

The United States claims Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons and pursued nuclear arms in violation of Security Council resolutions. Iraq denies having such weapons and has invited U.N. inspectors back into the country.

The election seems timed to send a message of Iraqi solidarity to the United States. While Saddam has no need to drum up support with public appearances, images of the Iraqi leader are plentiful around Baghdad.

On streets throughout the capital, posters proclaim the referendum's catchphrase: "Yes, yes, yes." Students at Baghdad's fine arts school have painted portraits of Saddam to show their devotion. Schoolchildren too young to vote sport T-shirts supporting the Iraqi leader.

Some voters are even donating blood in exchange for a banner signifying their "yes" vote.

CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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