Iraqi candidates campaign to stay alive

In the streets of Baghdad, it's life and death work. Election volunteers rush to put up posters, protected by heavily armed police. Everyone is edgy.

“Get that camera out of my face,” one man says.

At any time, insurgents could strike. They have declared war on the January 30th vote and anyone who supports it.

So, back at headquarters, the man on the posters — elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, who heads a liberal Sunni coalition — tries to get his message out when politicking means risking your life.

“We are unable to meet people in the streets and even kiss babies, as usual,” says Pachachi.

In the past two months alone, at least 10 candidates have been killed and hundreds threatened — men and women.

“I have lost my son and my bodyguard,” says Salama al-Kafaji, who heads a party for women's and children's rights and has survived three assassination attempts.

After the latest attack earlier this month, Salama now campaigns from her house. Why does she go on?

“We have to continue this step of having democracy in Iraq,” she says.

But four of Iraq's 18 provinces are war zones. Insurgents have blown up at least 10 schools, all polling stations.

Running for the transitional National Assembly alone, there are more than 7,000 candidates from 109 political parties, and each and every one of them has had to figure out how to win and stay alive. Parties are not publishing most candidates' names. There are no rallies or debates. Instead, top contenders produce their own commercials. Wealthy interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has spent at least $4 million on TV ads, avoiding contact with crowds.

Still, there are exceptions.

Only months ago, Fatah Ghazi defended a Shiite militia locked in battle against U.S. forces in Sadr City — Baghdad's Shiite slum.

Now, Fatah is an Islamic Party candidate, working the crowds in his own Shiite neighborhood. But, even here, he's a marked man.

“I came home one night and found a blank note on my door with only a big drop of blood on it,” he says.

But mostly, it's a stealth election for mostly anonymous candidates, in an election campaign like no other.