Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kurdistan: Voting Irregularities Reported in Kurdish Areas

A number of voters in the northern Kurdish regions were prevented from casting ballots in Iraq's 15 December parliamentary elections due to reported omissions in the official list of voters, officials said on Sunday.

"We have proof that thousands of Kurds were kept from the polls because their names weren't included on voter lists," said Fadia Fateh, a senior official in the Arbil electoral commission.

"We managed to help some people to vote, but hundreds of others left polling stations without voting," she added.

The phenomenon was mostly seen in the majority-Kurdish cities of Kirkuk, Sulaimaniyah and Arbil, and, to a lesser extent, in other isolated areas of the country.

The Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq (IECI), responsible for issuing voter lists, explained that such problems were common whenever large numbers of voters are registered.

"We're analysing all the possibilities of list problems," IECI spokesperson Farid Ayar said on Sunday. "If it's an internal problem, we're going to find it soon."

According to Ayar, the IECI had received information that around 5,000 names had been missing from voter lists. He added, however, that this figure had not been confirmed and still needed to be investigated.

"It's a very delicate issue, and we can't turn it into a big problem based on unconfirmed comments," Ayar added.

Fateh noted that, in the days leading up to the vote, the IECI had been informed about some missing names but offered no response before the election deadline.

While Fateh believes that the inconsistencies may have kept as many as 70,000 Kurds from voting, IECI officials in the capital, Baghdad, maintained that this was impossible, adding that a commission was already "working seriously" to study the issue.

Some Arbil residents complained that the omissions represented de facto persecution against Kurds and aimed to provide Arabs in the area with a higher number of votes.

"I can't believe that so serious a commission could forget to add more than 70,000 names to the lists in the north of Kurdistan," said Diran Ayad, a 34-year old shopkeeper in Arbil. "It's nothing more than a way of keeping us away from the polls – but it won't be enough to change the final results."

Despite the irregularities, Samir Wissam, a senior official in the Kirkuk electoral commission, told IRIN: "We were happy with the elections which showed a big improvement on last January's vote, when dozens of violations were reported."

"This time, there have been relatively few reports of abuse," Wissam added.

Welcome to Bush-style Democracy and electioneering.


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