Iraqis probe 'unusually high' yes tally
Updated: 2005-10-18 08:47
Iraq's election commission announced Monday that officials were investigating
"unusually high" numbers of "yes" votes in about a dozen provinces during Iraq's
landmark referendum on a new constitution, raising questions about
irregularities in the balloting.
Word of the review came as Sunni Arab leaders repeated accusations of fraud
after initial reports from the provinces suggested the constitution had passed.
Among the Sunni allegations are that police took ballot boxes from heavily "no"
districts, and that some "yes" areas had more votes than registered voters.
The Electoral Commission made no mention of fraud, and an official with
knowledge of the election process cautioned that it was too early to say whether
the unusual numbers were incorrect or if they would have an effect on the
But questions about the numbers raised tensions over Saturday's referendum,
which has already sharply divided Iraqis. Most of the Shiite majority and the
Kurds — the coalition which controls the government — support the charter, while
most Sunni Arabs sharply opposed a document they fear will tear Iraq to pieces
and leave them weak and out of power.
Irregularities in Shiite and Kurdish areas, expected to vote strongly "yes,"
may not affect the final outcome. The main electoral battlegrounds were
provinces with mixed populations, two of which went strongly "yes." There were
conflicting reports whether those two provinces were among those with
In new violence, the U.S. military
said that its warplanes and helicopters bombed two western villages Sunday,
killing an estimated 70 militants near a site where five American soldiers died
in a roadside blast. Residents said at least 39 of the dead were civilians,
Iraqi electoral workers load ballot boxes on a
truck before sending them to be counted in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17
A sandstorm also became a factor in the vote count, preventing many tallies
from being flown from the provinces to Baghdad, where they are to be compiled
and checked. The Electoral Commission said it needed "a few more days" to
produce final results, citing the need for the audit.
At Baghdad's counting center, election workers cut open plastic bags of tally
sheets sent from stations in the capital and its surroundings — the only ones to
have arrived so far. Nearby, more workers, dressed in white T-shirts and caps
bearing the election commission's slogan, sat behind computer screens punching
in the numbers.
Election officials in many provinces have released their initial counts,
indicating that Sunni attempts to defeat the charter failed.
But the commission found that the number of "yes" votes in most provinces
appeared "unusually high" and would be audited, with random samples taken from
ballot boxes to test them, said the commission's head, Adil al-Lami.
The high numbers were seen among the nine Shiite provinces of the south and
the three Kurdish ones in the north, al-Lami told The Associated Press.