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Looking ahead to Iraqi elections


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President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, right, is sworn in Monday by Iraqi Chief Justice Midhat Al-Mahmodi.
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(CNN) -- After gaining sovereignty two days ahead of schedule Monday, the new Iraqi interim government will work to prepare its citizens to choose their lawmakers and a constitution.

Three nationwide elections are expected to be held next year.

Members of the short-term, caretaker government were sworn in Monday. (Full story)

The process was spelled out by the country's transitional administrative law, a document guiding the interim government that was approved last year by the now-dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi Governing Council.

The interim government will run Iraq until an election for a transitional legislature called the National Assembly is held, probably in January.

"Elections for the National Assembly shall take place by 31 December 2004 if possible, and in any case no later than by 31 January 2005," according to the law.

That body will have 275 members and will elect from its membership a president and two deputy presidents.

A key task of the National Assembly will be to write a constitution and present it to voters in a general referendum to be held no later than October 15, 2005.

The draft constitution will be ratified "if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it."

There are 18 governorates, or provinces, in Iraq. Elections for governorate councils and the Kurdistan National Assembly are to be held at the same time as the elections for the National Assembly.

If and when a constitution is ratified, elections for a permanent government "shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005."

The law also spells out the steps that must be taken if the draft permanent constitution is rejected.


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