The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), an Iraqi institution tasked with voter registration and conducting all upcoming electoral events and referenda in the country, has opened 34 sub-centres providing registered voters in Basra the option to sign their names calling for the referendum.Collecting 10 per cent of voters’ signatures, from an electorate of around 1.4 million people, in the area prompts the authorities to organize a referendum. The first step in this process was initiated by a petition of 32,635 Basra voters that was submitted to the IHEC last month. Anyone born in 1991 or before has two weeks from the start of 2009 to come forward and register their support.“The Law is to ensure the voters’ right to freely express their choice regarding selecting the type of governance for their province or region. This is part of strengthening the democratic process when each eligible voter has a say,” noted the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura.Once the signature collection period has ended, the IHEC will certify whether the threshold of 10 per cent of valid voters has been reached. The confirmation of the signatures is expected by the end of January, and the IHEC begins arranging the referendum within 60-90 days of certification of the signatures. 17 December 2008Preparations are in place enabling the people of the oil-rich Iraqi province of Basra to officially demonstrate their support of a proposed referendum to form a region with some devolved power from the central Government, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) announced today.