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IRAQ: Thousands were unable to vote in north - OCHA IRIN
Friday 25 March 2005
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IRAQ: Thousands were unable to vote in north

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BAGHDAD, 9 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Iraq's Higher Independent Electoral Commission (HIEC) confirmed this week that threats and security fears kept most Sunni people away from the polls on 30 January, in areas around the northern city of Mosul, some 390 km northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

The commission estimated that over 18,000 residents did not have the chance to vote because of safety fears and vote rigging by armed insurgents.

"Unfortunately this happened in Mosul. Attacks by the insurgents since last November had led to deteriorating security in the area and many polling stations couldn't even be opened," Farid Ayar, deputy for the HIEC, told IRIN in Baghdad.

Ayar added that only 95 of the 330 polling stations were opened and that there were threats from insurgents. According to medical staff in the area more than 30 people were killed on election day and more than 70 injured were treated at the main hospital.

Ninewah and Burtela, towns near Mosul, were the worst affected and no polling stations opened there. These cities have seen fierce fighting between insurgents and US troops since November 2004. In Burtella, insurgents stole the ballot papers and intimidated election staff.

According to election officials, after the IECI sent ballot boxes and ballot papers to the polling centres, armed militiamen took them, filled the boxes with votes for their chosen candidates and then returned boxes to the polling centres to be processed.

Ayar said that the militants offered money to elections officials to ensure that ballots were counted but they refused bribes and set the boxes aside to be handled by the election commission.

Representatives from the IECI travelled to Mosul to inspect boxes and they determined that approximately 50 had been filled fraudulently. The commission intends to cancel the results of all the boxes in question, Ayar said.

Meanwhile, the security situation in Mosul continues to be in a critical state, according to observers. On Monday a suicide bomber wandered into a crowd of security staff at a hospital and blew himself up, killing 16 people and wounding nine, local officials told IRIN.

"Something should be done against the insurgents to guarantee the safety of people in that area. We lost many votes there and the government has only just announced that the boycott happened in that area. This is really an offence against Iraqis, especially Sunnis and Turkmen who are the biggest group from that area," Muhammad Slehly, a Sunni Muslim from Mosul told IRIN.

About 300 people protested on Sunday outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, unhappy about alleged irregularities on election day, especially in Kirkuk, where witnesses accused Kurdish parties of entering polling stations, breaking ballot boxes open and stealing ballot papers.

Kurdish representatives in Baghdad deny the accusation and say this was misinformation just to decrease the credibility of Kurds. "They are just angry because Kirkuk has mostly voted for Kurdistan parties," a Kurdish party representative, in Baghdad, told IRIN.

Those attending the demonstration were mainly Turkmen and Christians, carrying Iraqi flags and shouting through loudspeakers about irregularities they had allegedly seen in the north.

"It was really an offence against our rights and the government didn't do anything to cover this problem," Labiba Ahmed, a Turkmen demonstrator, told IRIN. A senior official from the HIEC told IRIN that lawyers were investigating the irregularities.

He added that up until he spoke there had been no reports of any voting irregularities in the southern part of Iraq in the historic election.

Eight million voters inside the country and nearly 300,000 Iraqis living overseas had the chance to vote in the election to choose a 275-member interim national assembly along with a new regional parliament in the north.

Turnout inside Iraq was estimated to be about 60 percent and more than 90 percent for those living abroad.

Initial provisional results show the United Alliance, backed by Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to be in the lead. It is hoped that final results will be released in the next few days.


Other recent IRAQ reports:

Barbers threatened by hardliners,  24/Mar/05

Interview with the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi,  24/Mar/05

Extra semester for Fallujah students,  22/Mar/05

Demonstrators defy eviction,  22/Mar/05

Focus on threats against progressive women,  21/Mar/05

Other recent Democracy-Human Rights-Peace Security reports:

COTE D IVOIRE: UN demands inquiry into 13 torture deaths, 16/Mar/05

SIERRA LEONE: Third war crimes trial starts, AFRC leaders in dock, 7/Mar/05

IRAQ: Gypsies call for greater rights, 3/Mar/05

GUINEA: Newspaper editor and lawyer detained, 17/Feb/05

IRAQ: New centre for missing people to open, 7/Feb/05

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