View Full Version : Claims That Iraqi Ballot Was Rigged Threaten to Derail Government, Boost Insurgency

12-21-2005, 11:24 AM
Sunni, Secular Groups Demand New Vote
Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/20/AR2005122000823_pf.html)

Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government.

Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud.

Alluding to Sunnis who chose to abandon their earlier rejection of Iraqi politics and participate in Thursday's election, Adnan Dulaimi, a chief of the main Sunni coalition, the Tawafaq front, demanded: "What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate?"

The preliminary results, he said, were "not in the interest of stability of the country."

Figures released by Iraq's electoral commission indicated that, with ballots from more than 95 percent of boxes counted across the country, the Shiite religious coalition appeared poised to dominate the four-year parliament -- and, with it, selection of the next prime minister.

Though the Shiites' slim majority in the outgoing parliament was expected to dwindle because of high Sunni Arab turnout Thursday, initial calculations showed the Shiite list winning overwhelmingly in 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the most populous, Baghdad. A coalition of ethnic Kurdish parties swept the three northernmost provinces, where Kurds predominate.

The final distribution of seats in the 275-member National Assembly will be decided by a complicated formula that is based on turnout and is skewed to reward small parties by giving them some representation. Electoral commission members cautioned that the election results must be checked and cross-checked and that the allegations of ballot violations would be settled before the results were declared final. That process might last into January, said Farid Ayar, an elections official.

Ayar said Tuesday that among the 1,000 complaints received so far, about 20, if valid, were serious enough to have affected the vote. The complaints included "some forgeries, fraud, and use of force and efforts to intimidate," he told reporters. "We will study all of these very carefully."

Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose secular slate appeared likely to finish fourth in the race and play a small role in the government, also questioned the results and called a meeting for Wednesday of groups angry with the outcome.

And Saleh Mutlak, who headed an independent Sunni slate, said: "I don't think there is any practical point for us for being in this National Assembly if things stay like this.

"This election is completely false. It insults democracy everywhere. Everything was based on fraud, cheating, frightening people and using religion to frighten the people," he said. "It is terrorism more than democracy."

Mutlak said he had expected his slate to capture 70 parliamentary seats, but he said it seemed likely to win fewer than 20, according to the preliminary results.

U.S. officials continued to praise the conduct of the election, and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, a leader of the Shiite ruling coalition, played down the complaints in an appearance on Iraqi television Tuesday night. The election, he said, "should be seen as a victory for all Iraqis, regardless of any doubts or skepticism."

The campaign leading to Thursday's vote was marked by heightened violence, including the assassinations of candidates and election workers and attacks on party offices. But the balloting itself was hailed in diverse quarters as an overall success.

As results emerged this week, however, cries of fraud and ballot-rigging surged.

Mutlak said, for example, that in Shiite-populated southern Iraq, militiamen fired guns in the air to intimidate voters, ballots disappeared under the control of militias and polling places claimed to run out of ballots on election day. Other critics have complained of ghost voters, duplicate voters and people being bused from other districts to vote.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad insisted Tuesday that "overall, from what we know so far, the election went very well."

"It's too soon to speak definitively about the results, but everyone, all the communities, participated," he said. "That was very important. That was a significant step."

Though estimated to account for 20 percent of Iraq's population, Sunni Arabs dominated the government of Saddam Hussein, as well as previous administrations. When Hussein was toppled in 2003 by the U.S.-led invasion, Sunnis largely rejected the new political process that was brokered by American occupation officials and gradually dominated by the country's Shiite majority.

After Sunni Arabs boycotted elections for a transitional parliament in January, the United States worked strenuously behind the scenes to bring them into the political process, arguing that Sunni participation in government might dampen the insurgency.

The Sunni Arab vote in provinces of central Iraq was splintered among Dulaimi's main Sunni coalition, Mutlak's party and, in Salahuddin province, a small party headed by Mishan Jabouri.

In addition to the Sunni slates, secular groups appeared to attract little support, including those of Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi, who as an exile had pushed the Bush administration to invade Iraq. There was much speculation that Allawi, a secular Shiite, would capitalize on dissatisfaction with Iraq's current leaders, but his party received only 14 percent of the vote in Baghdad and a lower percentage in other provinces.

"It looks like people preferred to vote for their ethnic or sectarian identity," Khalilzad told reporters. "But for Iraq to succeed, there has to be cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic cooperation. At this point, it seems sectarian and ethnic identity has played a dominant role in the vote."

Even before the voting began, Sunni leaders had said the country's electoral system was stacked against them.

The number of parliamentary seats allocated to each province was based on the number of registered voters rather than population, since no reliable census exists for much of the country. That shortchanged Sunni regions that boycotted the January elections, said B.B. Abdul Qadir, an official with the Iraqi Islamic Party.

According to an analysis that Qadir presented to Iraqi election officials, the four provinces with the largest Sunni populations have eight fewer seats than they should.

A U.S. official in Fallujah, who spoke on the condition that he not be named, said there was some validity to the claim but that the total shortfall was probably closer to a few seats.

12-22-2005, 12:19 PM
Some Iraq Sunnis, Shiites Threaten Boycott
AP (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=OHDEF&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT)

Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body.

A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate."

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League.There was no one available for comment at the U.N. office in Baghdad.

The electoral commission, or IECI, that monitored the elections reported receiving more than 1,500 complaints of violations - of which 25 were described as serious. However, it does not expect the complaints to change the overall result, to be announced in January.

The groups signing the joint statement included the main Sunni Arab coalition - Adnan al-Dulaimi's Iraqi Accordance Front - and a secular Shiite bloc headed by Allawi.

A senior member of the Shiite religious United Iraqi Alliance, the group that preliminary results show leading in the polls, said the protesters should accept the results."These statements will lead the country to new chaos," Ali al-Adib said. "Who can guarantee that when the elections are rerun they will not reject them again?"

Al-Adib, also a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said the alliance now helping govern Iraq also had complaints.

"We also have complaints and we also have evidence, and we are waiting for the decision of the electoral commission," he said. "They have to accept the will of the Iraqi people, the will of the majority. The political process will continue even if they boycott it."

He said those groups rejecting the election results "are the same who called for the boycotting of the last elections and said 'no' to the constitution."

Sunni Arab groups had called on the minority to boycott the Jan. 30 elections and to reject the constitution approved in an Oct. 15 referendum. The Sunni-dominated insurgency had threatened to kill anyone participating in the Jan. 30 elections but pledged not to carry out any attacks last week.

Sunni Arabs fear being marginalized. Most estimates say they make up about 20 percent of the population, although many in the minority claim they comprise 40 percent of Iraq's estimated 27 million people. Shiites make up an estimated 60 percent of the population and Kurds 20 percent.

Allawi did not attend Thursday's meeting, held in his political headquarters in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

"We hold the IECI responsible for all the violations which took place during the elections and demand that it be dissolved and a suitable alternative to be found," said the statement read by Ali al-Timimi, the head of the Hilla al-Fayha List, a secular Shiite ticket Babil province south of the capital.

"If this is not achieved, then we will have no choice but to refuse the results and boycott the new parliament."

More than 100 politicians and representative of various groups participated in the meeting, held in a smoke-filled room.

Allawi representative Ibrahim al-Janabi took the accusations one step further and described last week's elections in all 18 provinces as "fraudulent."

"These elections are fraudulent, they are fraudulent, and the next parliament is illegitimate. We reject all this process," al-Janabi told a news conference.

Results released Tuesday showed the governing Shiite grouping, the United Iraqi Alliance, winning strong majorities not only in Baghdad but in the largely Shiite southern provinces. Sunni Arabs turned out in large numbers, unlike January's election.

The electoral commission put total turnout at nearly 70 percent of the country's 15.5 million voters. The Jan. 30 elections saw a turnout of 58 percent, while 63 percent participated in the October referendum.

Politicians say that based on preliminary results, the alliance seems on course to win between 120 and 130 seats - compared with 140 now.

Sunni Arabs may increase their seats from 17 to more than 40, while the Kurds are expected to hold between 40 and 50. Allawi, who controls 40 seats, is expected to drop to 20 seats or fewer.

Despite the lead, the Shiite religious bloc likely will fall short of the 184 seats necessary to choose a new president, the first step needed to form a government, and will have to find a coalition partner in the 275-member parliament.

12-22-2005, 01:13 PM
I thought this was a huge accomplishment?