Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has called on Iraqis to vote in Sunday's historic elections, despite unrelenting violence that has claimed the lives of at least 20 more people today (Saturday).
In an interview with a British television channel (SkyNews), Mr. Allawi said Iraqis should not let the insurgents stop them from deciding their future.
Earlier, interim President Ghazi al-Yawar said he expects fears of violence will deter most of the 14-million eligible Iraqis from going to the polls. Pre-election violence today (Saturday) has killed at least 17 Iraqis and three Americans.
The country is virtually locked down for the vote, with borders closed, traffic banned and extended curfews in effect. The government said today (Saturday) it will extend emergency laws in all areas except the semi-autonomous Kurdish north for another month, empowering itself to continue such measures.
But the violence has not stopped election workers from delivering ballots and ballot boxes to polling centers, and officials say preparations are moving forward.
Meanwhile, some 85-thousand Iraqis living abroad already have cast their ballots for the new government. Expatriate voting began Friday and will continue through Sunday at voting centers in 14 countries from Australia to Europe to the United States.