Iraq's electoral role takes shape in Geneva

Iraqis put up election posters on a street in Baghdad Keystone

Hundreds of people in the Swiss city of Geneva are working around the clock to ensure that voting in Iraq can go ahead as planned on January 30.

This content was published on November 26, 2004 minutes

They have been employed to fulfil a contract won by recruitment agency Manpower to establish a database of information contained in the country’s electoral rolls.

All Iraqis over 18 on January 1 will be eligible to vote in the poll to elect 275 members of a new national assembly, whose key task will be to debate and approve a new constitution.

But before polling can take place, the authorities have to sift through the existing registers of voters as part of efforts to ensure that the elections are as free and fair as possible.

By the end of last week, Manpower had recruited "over 1,100" of the 1,400 temporary staff it needs to create an electronic database of all the names and addresses contained in the election registers.

The electoral rolls include the names of all Iraqis who held ration cards issued under the United Nations “oil-for-food” programme.

Recruitment process

The UN-sponsored independent committee charged with organising January’s election awarded Manpower the contract to recruit staff capable of sifting through the data contained in the registers.

Charles Parisod, Manpower’s Geneva-based regional director, told swissinfo that the recruitment process had been “challenging”.

“We had to recruit and train a huge number of people in a very short space of time,” said Parisod, “and this meant checking each applicant’s knowledge of written Arabic, as well as their ability to use an Arabic keyboard.”

Manpower says it has also had to ask the Swiss authorities for help in expediting the relevant work permits for those selected to work on the project.

“Initially they were slightly surprised by the size of the project, so it has been quite a task to make things happen in Bern," said Parisod.

He added that there was "still a huge amount of administrative work to be done" and that some work permit applications were still pending.

But Manpower remains confident that all 1,400 temporary staff will be in place in "a matter of days".

Thorough checks

The vast majority of those who have been recruited are involved in inputting data and checking the spelling of names and addresses of individuals who appear on the electoral lists.

“Each data entry is checked twice by two different people,” said Parisod.

Staff are paid an hourly wage of SFr20-27 ($17-24), and will work until the end of December.

The project being carried out in Geneva is not the only Swiss connection to January’s election in Iraq.

The ballot papers to be used by millions of Iraqis are being printed in Switzerland. A company will then distribute them to the 9,000 polling stations, which will be equipped with 40,000 ballot boxes.

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh

Key facts

Manpower is the world’s second-largest provider of temporary employees, after Switzerland’s Adecco.
By Thursday, the company had recruited all but a handful of the 1,400 people needed to complete the task of creating an electronic database of Iraq’s electoral rolls.
The work is to be completed by the end of December, one month before elections are due to be held.

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