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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Negroponte
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

January 28, 2005

John Negroponte

Welcome. As you all know, the Iraqi people are about to hold a landmark election this Sunday--the first of three they will hold this year. As the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, I am pleased to answer any questions you have on the subject.

Carlos, from Dominican Republic writes:
Why the all mighty United States of America dont let Iraq decide for themselves when to make their elections?. If USA select any date(Jan 30) that only make the resistence have a cause to fight more against the invaders(USA)

John Negroponte
On the contrary, Carlos, the Iraqis are deciding for themselves when to have their elections. The majority of Iraqis want to vote and want to vote now. Only the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq—the Iraqi-run institution that runs the elections—has the authority to postpone the elections. That commission decided that it is best for Iraq to hold the elections on January 30, the date specified by the Transitional Administrative Law and the United Nations, so that Iraqis can move from an appointed to an elected government. It was an Iraqi decision, and we support it.

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Ambssador Negroponte: Being the Ambassador to Irag: What is your view of the upcoming elections? How will your job be affected by the elections?

John Negroponte
I think the elections are an important step on the Iraqis’ road to democracy. They aren’t the final step, but they’re an important one. They mark the transition from an appointed to an elected government, which is a major feat. The elections are part of a process that began with the toppling of Saddam Hussein and then with the transfer of sovereignty. It’s a process that will continue, as the Iraqi’s draft a constitution, vote on that constitution, and then elect a new government at the end of this year. As for my job, I will work with the newly elected government of Iraq, just as I currently work with the appointed government.

Kevin, from Winnfield, Louisiana writes:
What will be our position on Iraq in general should there be any voting irregularities during the election or if it is decided that the results are somehow unacceptable?

John Negroponte
Only the Iraqis can decide if the results are acceptable. If there are voting irregularities, they will be brought to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. The IECI has mechanisms for dealing with such complaints. They will investigate the claims and decide what actions should be taken.

Eric, from Oswego, NY writes:
Just one quick question. Is the election going to be tabulated using a system such as the Electoral College or will this be done by Popular Vote?

John Negroponte
The National Assembly will be decided by popular vote.

John, from Washington, DC writes:
Amb. Negroponte: First, congratulations on the progress made in Iraq to date. Every American in Iraq has done a magnificant job. What percentage of voter turnout must be acheived to ensure that this is a full, free democratic election? Thanks for answering my question.

John Negroponte
I appreciate your support, John. There’s no specific percentage of voter turnout required for the elections to be legitimate. The elections will be legitimate if they are fair, transparent, and—above all—if the Iraqis accept them as legitimate. Only the Iraqi people can decide this question. We also have to remember that however imperfect these elections may be, they will be the most legitimate elections the Iraqi people have had in a long time, and they are the first elections of many more to come.

atthew, from arthaville,loiusiana writes:
do you think elections will go as planned

John Negroponte
I think that the elections will take place on Sunday, and I think that the Iraqi people will come out and vote. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, the Iraqi Interim Government, the United Nations, and the Coalition partners are all working hard to ensure this.

Ted, from Curtice,Ohio writes:
What will the duties of Iraq's new presisdent be? How many years will he serve? Will the new persident be as respected and revered as our George Washington?

John Negroponte
In this election, the Iraqi people aren’t electing a president. They are electing a 275-seat National Assembly that will have the job of writing Iraq’s new constitution. There will be a three-person presidency council and a prime minister. The National Assembly will choose the presidency council, and then the presidency council chooses the prime minister. The National Assembly will draft the constitution and then hold new elections in December, once the constitution is ratified in a referendum.

Doug, from Concord New Hampshire writes:
What is the next major strategic step in Iraq after the upcoming election - there is a great deal of build up and anticipation for an event (the election) that may prove to be a relatively insignificant milestone in the formation of a new democratic Iraq - but assuming the election is a significant first step toward true democracy what is the next significant step?

John Negroponte
The election is a significant step toward true democracy, but there are many more to come. The National Assembly will have the extremely import task of writing a new constitution. In October, Iraq will have its second election of the year, when the Iraqis will vote on ratifying the constitution. If the draft constitution is ratified, then the Iraqis will have their third election in December, when they elect a new government. Each of these is truly significant, and each brings the Iraqi people closer to a fully-fledged democracy of their own.

Terry, from Evansville, IN writes:
Whom or which list in the Iraq elections does the Bush Administration see as most beneficial to our countries' interests for democracy? Does Allawi head any list?

John Negroponte
The U.S. government doesn’t support any one particular candidate. We support elections in general. We will work with whatever government the Iraqi people elect, as long as it respects the principles of democracy, minority rights, and federalism. The U.S. believes in democracy and believes the Iraqi people have the right to choose their government. Prime Minister Allawi does head a list—The Iraqi List.

John Negroponte
Thank you for all your wonderful questions today. I've enjoyed talking with all of you about this very important subject.

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