Initial Breakdown of Iraq’s First Exercise in Democracy (DEBKAfile) Exclusive Analysis 01/31/05 1:15 AM (GMT+02:00)
Iraq’s epic general election for a 275-member national assembly
Sunday, January 30, was a success by the very fact of its taking
place. Despite the violence leading up to the event and promised
bloodbath, a surprising number of Iraqis were not intimidated and
turned out in larger or smaller numbers almost everywhere. Iraq’s
Baath loyalists and al Qaeda’s three organizations - the Iraqi group
led by Abu Mussab al Zarqawi, Ansar al Sunna and Ansar al Islam -
managed by a concerted effort to pull off some 16 suicide attacks
killing more than 30 Iraqis. Yet they failed to derail the election
and therefore reduced their leverage in post-election Iraq.
In addition to the lockdown, tight security and driving restrictions,
DEBKAfile’s sources inside Iraq report American forces carried out
proactive operations. They were able to foil eight suicide attacks.
Also in Mosul, where the US command decided to deploy the Kurdish
36th commando battalion (which also fought in Fallujah) in the Sunni
neighborhoods, 150 ready primed explosive belts were seized –
testimony to the scale of aborted carnage. And many rockets and
mortars shot at polling stations made plenty of noise - but misfired.
Four hours after the polls closed, a clearly relieved President
George W. Bush spoke at the White House in praise of the bravery of
Iraqis who turned out to vote and “firmly rejected the antidemocratic
ideology” of terrorists. But the US president seemed to edge away
from his usual encomiums on a “victory for democracy.” Nor did he
actually commend the Iraqis for the big step they took towards
establishing a free and democratic government.
The truth is that there was not much of either in this remarkable
DEBKAfile’s Iraq experts reveal that, while the turnout is officially
estimated at 60%, the real figure will probably turn out to be quite
a bit lower, no more than 40-45% - in itself an exceptional feat. The
other surprising manifestation was the high proportion of Iraqi women
voters – appraised at more than 55% of the total. This was most
marked in the Shiite districts of the south, where local clerics
ordered everyone to vote, but the men stayed at home and sent their
womenfolk to perform their democratic duty.
The Shiite turnout was disappointing in other ways too. Long queues
and 80% percentage of eligible voters appeared only in the two shrine
cities of Najef and Karbala. Further south in the densely populated
Diwanya, Mussana, Qadasiya and Amara, the proportion did not go
beyond 40%. In Basra, Iraq’s second largest town, the turnout was 32-
35%, although Iraqi election officials claimed 90%.
Our experts characterize Shiite voting activity as “lots of hustle
and bustle, but not too many ballots.”
The Sunni districts predictably obeyed their leaders boycott
directive. In internal memos, American military officials reported
that 150 voting centers never opened at all in some Sunni
strongholds. Polling booths were not installed in the Sunni, Turkomen
and Assyrian neighborhoods of the northern town of Mosul. Assyrian
Christians staged large demonstrations to protest their loss of
voting right and representation in the national assembly, but were
given no alternative means of balloting; nor did they rate media
A sprinkle of votes was marked in the predominantly Sunni Anbar
province of western Iraq and the Saladin district – even in Fallujah
and Baqouba. In Diyala, south of Baghdad, voting reached 30 percent
under heavy US and Iraqi military security.
In parts of Baghdad, particularly the Sunni districts, many polling
stations did not open and citizens lost their chance to vote.
The most striking vote-rigging incident was reported in the northern
oil town of Kirkuk. There, Kurdish troops and intelligence are
alleged to have trucked in tens of thousands of armed Kurds from
across the province to commandeer the polling stations. Cautious
estimates put the figure of imported voters at 50,000. In the absence
of a proper voters’ register and computers, there was no way of
establishing which voters were intruders from other districts. When
the non-Kurdish politicians saw the invasion, they backed off.
By artificially inflating Unified Kurdish List numbers in Kirkuk, the
Kurdish community substantially stepped up its representation in the
Ballot-counting had barely begun Sunday night when the Shiites
declared themselves the big winners over their Euphrates River TV
station. The results cannot possibly be known before the week or ten
days needed to tally the ballots by hand because computers are not
available to Iraq’s election authorities. During Sunday night, the
boxes are to be transported from tens of thousands of polling
stations across the country to Baghdad. Some may not make it, either
because of terrorist attacks or because they might “disappear” off
the backs of trucks en route. But even without a precise count,
Shiite and Kurdish victories can be safely predicted.
No one can tell yet how well the lists run by interim president Ghazi
Yawar and interim prime minister Iyad Allawi have fared. Yawar is not
running for election, but Allawi, to stay in office, will need at
least 40-50 national assembly seats. (Copyright © 2005 DEBKAfile
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