Iraqis probe 'unusually high' yes tally
Updated: 2005-10-18 08:47
Those provinces reported to AP "yes" votes above 90 percent, with some as
high as 97 and 98 percent.
Two provinces that are crucial to the results — Ninevah and Diyala, which
have mixed Sunni, Shiite and Kurd populations — were not among those that
appeared unusual, al-Lami said. He said their results "were reasonable and
balanced according to the nature of the population in those areas."
But the official with knowledge of the counting process said the unexpected
results were not isolated to the Shiite and Kurdish provinces and were "all
around the country." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
sensitivity of the count.
Sunni opponents needed to win over either Diyala or Ninevah to veto the
constitution. Sunnis had to get a two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraq's 18
provinces to defeat the charter, and they appeared to have gotten it in western
Anbar and central Salahuddin, both heavily Sunni.
Ninevah and Diyala are each believed to
have a slight Sunni Arab majority. But results reported by provincial electoral
officials showed startlingly powerful "yes" votes of up to 70 percent in each.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi,
right, looks on together with Shiite Muslim legislator, Hussein al-Sadr,
left, during a conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17 2005.
Allegations of fraud in those areas could throw into question the final
outcome. But questions of whether the reported strong "yes" vote there is
unusual are complicated by the fact that Iraq has not had a proper census in
some 15 years, meaning the sectarian balance is not firmly known.
A prominent Sunni Arab politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, claimed Diyala in
particular had seen vote rigging. He said he was told by the manager of a
polling station in a Kurdish district of Diyala that 39,000 votes were cast
although only 36,000 voters were registered there.
Al-Mutlaq said soldiers broke into a polling station in a Sunni district of
the Diyala city of Baqouba and took ballot boxes heavy with "no" votes and that
later results showed a "yes" majority. His claims could not be independently
"Bottom line, we can say that the whole operation witnessed interference from
government forces," he said.
Al-Mutlaq and Sunni Arab parliament member Meshaan al-Jubouri said polling
officials in Ninevah had informed them that the provincial capital, Mosul, voted
predominantly "no" — as high as 80 percent — while the Electoral Commission
reported a 50-50 split.
Ninevah's deputy governor, Khesro Goran, a Kurd, dismissed the claims. "These
declarations are excuses to justify the loss, and we did not receive any
complaint from the (Electoral Commission) about such fears. Besides, the whole
operation was under the supervision of the United Nations ... so no fraud
Sunni Arab turnout appeared to have been strong — in contrast to January
parliamentary elections that the community largely boycotted.
President Bush said Monday that he was pleased that Sunni Arabs cast so many
ballots and said it was indication that Iraqis want to settle disputes
"I was pleased to see that the Sunnis have participated in the process," Bush
said. "The idea of deciding to go into a ballot box is a positive development.
Many Sunnis fear the new decentralized government outlined in the
constitution will deprive them of their fair share of the country's vast oil
wealth by creating virtually independent mini-states of Kurds in the north and
Shiites in the south, while leaving Sunnis isolated in central and western Iraq.
If the constitution indeed passed, the first full-term parliament since
Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003 will install a new government by Dec. 31 following
Dec. 15 elections. If the charter failed, the parliament will be temporary,
tasked with drawing up a new draft constitution.