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Contact: John Gentzel, Communications Director, 202-225-4315

Fair and free: Elections are the next milestone in Iraq’s journey to democracy

Washington, Jan 28, 2005 - This weekend marks a historic milestone for the people of Iraq.

On Jan. 30, millions of Iraqis will cast ballots in the country’s first fair and free election in decades, marking continued progress in Iraq’s transition toward a country built on the pillars of democracy and freedom for all.

Yet the march toward freedom is not without its hazards or its casualties and the threats of violence aimed at Iraqis who participate in the election will be dealt with accordingly. But the psychotic intimidation voiced by the disillusioned remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a group of insurgents fearful of democracy and liberty, will not keep the will of the Iraqi people at bay. Ultimately, the desire of the majority will triumph and a new, democratically-elected government will form.

The Iraqi people will be voting for a new, 275-member Iraqi Transitional National Assembly. Members of the new Iraqi assembly will immediately be tasked with drafting a conditional Constitution and electing a new president – challenging but necessary tasks. Thereafter, the Iraqi people will vote by national referendum on acceptance of the new Constitution in October of this year and then vote on members to an Iraqi national congress the following December.

Iraq will continue to face tough challenges as it progresses, but nothing uncommon or unexpected in the genesis of a new democracy. Tens of thousands of brave Americans died to break the chains of British tyranny so that the principles of our Declaration of Independence could take fold and flourish in the birth of a new nation. And there’s every reason to believe that a new, democratic Iraq will prevail and flourish as well.

It’s been said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. On Sunday, Iraq, already miles removed from the days of Saddam Hussein, takes one more step toward political and personal freedom and security for all people. And everyone who made the ultimate sacrifice to bring about this monumental occasion will be remembered for their important contribution.

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