UN officials turn to formerly discarded voter database A plan to hold Iraqi elections in January is on schedule. But officials now say they had the tools to begin the process months ago, which could have given Iraqis a democratically elected government within a few weeks instead of next year. Earlier this year - in response to demands for quick elections by leading Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - United States occupation officials and members of the American-picked Iraqi Governing Council said that it would be impossible to let Iraqis elect their own government in time for the June 30 deadline to transfer autonomy to Iraqis. They dismissed a proposal to use the database of the former Iraqi government's food rationing system to compile voter records. That data was part of a United Nations-managed programme that let Iraq sell its then-sanctioned oil for humanitarian needs. But it was impractical and potentially inaccurate, said officials. But a UN official said on Friday that Iraq was likely to come up with voter registration records based on those same databases, which turned out to be 'extremely' useful in recent tests. 'We're receiving right now the preliminary results of audits, which seem to be pretty good,' said Carina Perelli, the UN elections chief. 'It seems to be potentially an extremely good source for establishing the voters' roll.' Ms Perelli announced the names and duties of an eight-member Iraqi commission charged with organising nationwide elections by late January. Carlos Valenzuela, a veteran of elections in East Timor and the Palestinian territories, will be the UN's point man. Any candidate who obtains 500 signatures will be able to run for the 275-seat parliament. The electoral commission must draw up an electoral law, register voters, set up locations for 30,000 polls and hire 130,000 poll workers. US occupation authorities have earmarked US$260 million for the elections. The Iraqis will use the proportional representation system ubiquitous in European democracies. Slates of candidates will receive parliamentary seats based on the number of votes they receive. In order to meet a requirement that a quarter of parliamentarians be women, every third name on the lists must be female. For this election only, Iraqis will vote as one electoral district, allowing minorities scattered around the country to increase their power.