Iraq election commission checking ballots
Updated: 2005-10-18 18:50
A sandstorm that muddied Baghdad's skies cleared, allowing officials to
resume flying ballot boxes to the capital Tuesday so "unusually high" vote
totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces can be checked by election officials.
by Iraq's election commission has raised the possibility that the results of the referendum
could be called into question. As many as 99 percent of the
voters reportedly approved Iraq's draft constitution in some of the provinces being investigated.
Iraqi electoral workers carry ballot boxes
before sending them to be counted in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17 2005.
Iraq's electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit an 'unusually
high' vote count from most provinces in the country's landmark referendum
on the draft constitution.[AP]
Meanwhile, insurgents resumed attacks that had fallen sharply during
Saturday's vote at heavily protected polling stations across the country.
In Baghdad, militants shot and killed an adviser to one of Iraq's top Sunni
Arab officials as he drove to work on Tuesday, police said.
In fighting in western Iraq, two U.S. Marines and four militants were killed
near the town of Rutba, not far from the Jordanian border, on Monday, the
military said. At least 1,978 members of the U.S. military have died since the
beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Adil al-Lami, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, told The
Associated Press on Tuesday that ballot boxes were arriving from the provinces
and that employees had resumed counting.
"If we suspect that the numbers are higher or lower than we expected, we have
to double-check them, and this audit means it might be several more days before
we announce the final outcome," he said. "We are not concerned whether the
outcome is `yes' or `no.' We are only interested in making the process
technically a success."
He said the commission is "a neutral body" acting "as a referee."
The investigation by the commission in Iraq's landmark referendum has raised
questions about irregularities in the balloting.
Word of the review came Monday 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
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 affect the outcome. 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 that 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
Irregularities in Shiite and Kurdish areas, expected to vote strongly "yes,"
may not affect the 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 questionable figures.
At Baghdad's counting center, election workers cut open plastic bags of tally
sheets sent by plane and helicopter from provincial stations. 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.
The high numbers were seen among the nine Shiite provinces of the south and
the three Kurdish ones in the north, al-Lami said. Those provinces reported to
the 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
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.
Allegations of fraud in those areas could throw into question the final
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.
In Tuesday violence, insurgents shot and killed Ayed Abdul Ghani, an adviser
to Osama al-Najafi, Iraq's industry minister and one of the country's top Sunni
The shooting occurred in new Baghdad, an eastern section of the capital, as
Ghani was driving to work at about 7:45 a.m., said police Maj. Falah
Before Iraq's constitutional referendum, al-Najafi had predicted that voters
would reject the document because it favors Kurds and majority Shiites over the