Iraqi election officials began handing out new, computerized voter identification cards Saturday across the capital as the country prepares for its first nationwide election since the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But the more than $100 million push to modernize voting comes as officials can’t distribute cards in embattled Anbar province, where al-Qaida fighters seized control of parts of two cities, and as militant attacks rage on unabated, killing at least 14 people alone Saturday and wounding nearly two dozen. The new voter cards, which include a computer chip, will allow election officials to check a voter’s identity and try to halt fraud. Several Iraqi political blocs alleged that some people voted multiple times in the last vote in 2010, although the results of the election were not widely disputed.
In previous elections, voters had to go through lists glued outside balloting centres to find their names before going inside. Spanish technology firm Indra signed a five-year deal with Iraq to supply the new system and train election officials.
Nearly 22 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their ballots in coming April 30 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is eying a third term in office despite objections from political rivals who accuse him of marginalizing partners and seizing control of state institutions to consolidate power.