Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vote Fraud?

William on the Ninevah Plains during the Iraqi referendum

I noticed this article and felt I should address some of the points raised. For me, it represents the very worst kind of disinformation - see my comments below.

Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh
Courtesy of IPS4 November 2005
By Gareth Porter
(ZNDA: Washington)
Reports compiled by the U.S. military in Iraq from its informants and by non-governmental organisations from independent Iraqi sources provide the first detailed picture of a campaign of ballot fraud by Kurdish authorities in Nineveh province, the key to the outcome of the 15 October constitutional referendum.
They show that officials of the Kurdish Democratic Party bused non-resident Kurds to vote in polling stations in various non-Kurdish areas of Nineveh and created a climate of fear and intimidation in the province that reduced the vote against the constitution on the Nineveh plain. They also support Sunni charges of fraudulent vote totals in the province.
The constitution was formally adopted on Oct. 25 after the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) certified voting results for Nineveh in which the Sunnis mustered a 55 percent majority vote against the constitution - short of the two-thirds vote needed in three or more of Iraq's 18 provinces needed to defeat it.
The accounts collected by the U.S. military in reports dated Oct. 15-19 were made available to IPS on condition that they would not be quoted directly and that the U.S. military unit forwarding them would not be identified.
The first-person accounts gathered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Nineveh were obtained and translated by Michael Youash, executive director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington. The names of the NGOs were not provided in the document given to IPS because of fears of reprisals.
None of the accounts reported by the military are from Sunnis. All of the sources quoted in those reports are either Kurds or trusted Assyrian Christians who have been advisors to the U.S. military on local developments and are generally favourable to the constitution. Thus they represent the view from those in the province least likely to have a political motive for depicting the referendum as rigged.
The reports compiled by the U.S. military include an account of the voting in Mosul by an Assyrian Christian source which observes that Kurds voted for the constitution but represent only a small percentage of the estimated 1.7 million people in the capital -- which holds roughly two-thirds the population of the province.
That account contradicts both widely reported explanations for the alleged failure of the Sunnis to achieve a two-thirds majority against the constitution in Nineveh -- that the Sunnis in Mosul were divided over the constitution, and that Kurds represent a very large proportion of the population of the city.
The final official vote total for Nineveh was 395,000 "no" and 323,000 "yes". However the IECI in Nineveh had told the media on Oct. 16 and again on Oct. 17 that 327,000 people had voted for the constitution and only 90,000 against, with only 25 out of the 300 polling stations in the province remaining to be counted.
Thus, between the two counts, 5,000 yes votes had apparently disappeared and 295,000 no votes had mysteriously materialised -- all from only 25 polling places. No explanation has ever been provided by election authorities for those contradictory data. The U.S. military's informant supports the view that Kurdish and Sunni vote totals in Mosul were significantly altered.
In the towns north and east of Mosul, the military's reporting suggests the main factor in distorting the vote was the use by Kurdish authorities of "flying voters" and voter intimidation.
Two different Iraqi advisers to the U.S. military, including one who is identified as a local political figure and supporter of the U.S. occupation, testified that the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) transported 500 non-resident Kurdish voters in a convoy of buses into the town of Bartilla, east of Mosul, to vote.
According to one of the accounts, election workers at the polling station were forced by a large group of Kurdish militiamen accompanying them to give the outsiders ballots to vote.
Nineveh Deputy Governor Khasro Goran, a ranKing member of the KDP, personally gave the orders that the 500 Kurds were to be allowed to vote, according to the second account to the military. The KDP was said to be planning to transport these 500 voters to other towns on the plain. Although the source said that the local mayor opposed that plan, the non-Kurdish mayors in the area have no military forces at their disposal.
Bartilla was not the only instance of "flying voters" reported by eyewitnesses in Nineveh. According to an account from a local resident, collected by non-government organisations in Nineveh, a large number of Kurds were brought into the non-Kurdish town of Alqosh, north of Mosul, in more than 20 buses on the evening of Oct. 14 and the morning of Oct. 15.
An adviser to the U.S. military who obtained information on the voting in towns north and east of Mosul reported that the vote in the city of Alqosh was 950 "yes" and 100 "no". Thus the imported Kurdish voters apparently represented the bulk of the votes counted in that town. Those reported results suggest that almost the entire population stayed away from the polls, either out of fear or in protest against the Kurdish vote fraud in the town.
The same military source said 1,220 votes were recorded in the town of Telaskof, of which 90 percent were "yes" votes, even though he said the majority of the town did not approve of the constitution. Most eligible voters, according to the informant, boycotted the election.
In Telkaif, where 70 percent of the votes were recorded as "yes" votes, according to the military's informant, a local eyewitness in the town told NGOs that the voting center in the town was staffed entirely by KDP personnel, including an employee known to the source as a KDP secret police agent.
Elsewhere on the Nineveh plain, the KDP openly displayed its security presence at polling places. In the town of Sheikhan, according to an account obtained by NGOs, the KDP staffed the polling place with personnel wearing "Security Committee for Shaikan District" badges.
The predominantly Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh, in which Kurds represent only about one percent, was recorded as delivering a vote favouring the constitution by a margin of six to one, according to the military's informant. The informant identified fear of the Kurdish militia in the town as a key factor in the outcome.
Kurdish political leaders have made no secret of their intention to attach Qaraqosh and surrounding areas to Kurdistan, despite the small number of Kurds there. As the Washington Post reported last August, the local KDP leader said he hoped Qaraqosh would be ceded to the Kurds after the area "becomes normalised".
The same article said Kurdish militia have beaten up anyone who refuses to go along with their plans, and individuals have been arrested and sent to jails in Kurdistan for activities that include "writing against the Kurds on the internet".
Both U.S. military informants and testimony gathered by civil society leaders in Nineveh reported that the Kurds had spread the rumour in Nineveh province that voters who did not vote "yes" would lose their food ration cards. Many farmers and their families were said by the independent informant to have voted "yes" on the understanding that would ensure the renewal of their ration cards.
The picture of voting irregularities and fear in Nineveh sketched out in these reports from non-Sunni sources collected by the U.S. military and civil society groups support the complaints about electoral fraud by Sunni political figures. And they belie the official portrayal of the referendum as a step toward political legitimacy and democratic development.

Gareth Porter is an independent historian and foreign policy analyst. He is the author of "The Third Option in Iraq: A Responsible Exit Strategy" in the Fall issue of Middle East Policy.


This is one of the grossest examples of disinformation, presumably for perverse political purposes, that I have seen come out of this referendum.

To challenge just one point. He writes: 'An adviser to the U.S. military who obtained information on the voting in towns north and east of Mosul reported that the vote in the city of Alqosh was 950 "yes" and 100 "no". Thus the imported Kurdish voters apparently represented the bulk of the votes counted in that town. Those reported results suggest that almost the entire population stayed away from the polls, either out of fear or in protest against the Kurdish vote fraud in the town.'

You will find reference to the Al Kosh vote in our report. That is because we followed up with people on the ground in Al Kosh on and after referendum day by telephone. The people of Al Kosh did suffer intimidation. What we did not mention (though we mentioned the intimidation) is that this was indeed by a KRG security boss. Very stupid. But all credit to the people of Al Kosh - they courageously threw him out and still voted "Yes". Nothing was going to stop then voting "Yes" not even the backlash of stupid and unneccessary KRG attempts to intimidate them to vote "YES". HOWEVER we KNOW that there was NO staying away from the polls by voters and there were certainly no "imported Kurdish voters". The vote in Al Kosh was genuine.But this whole article is dissinformation - of the very worst and most skillful kind because it contains grains of truth.

The voting figures are also ridiculous. We have the final vote for Al Kosh from the people on the ground. Al Kosh is a small town with 21,800 registered voters of whom 16,703 voted and of those 16,142 voted "Yes". A very high "yes" vote but you must remember that this is a Christian town on the Ninevah Plain with a Kurdish language speaking population.


Anonymous said...

I read with great interest and concern your Oct.25 report on Kurdish fraud in Ninewa.

I am not surprised.

The IECI rejected most ballot boxes from Makmour (Ninewa) last February because of such PDK ballot stuffing.

I have looked into the apparent 90 percent turn-out of Arbil voters for the referendum and have found revealing comments.

Having been here 2 years, and not seen any presence of organized international observer groups (cited on page 10 of your report), unless we count news of a roaming Euro parliament German in Sulay, a roaming HRW researcher in Arbil and a roaming Swedish ambassador in Arbil (the later two I have met), I would greatly appreciate receiving details of which international observer groups actually entered this country for the referendum and where they went.

Do you have a list ?

Do you have their contact details ?

Are they coming again next month ?

I am aware of the Jordan-based efforts of the IMIE, partially funded by my own government.


Marc Lemieux
Regional Coordinator
IFES EVER project – Iraq
Election violence, education and resolution
Arbil regional office

nextcenturyfoundation said...

As far as we know we were the only international observers to enter Iraq and travel in the interior during the referendum. we understand there were other groups but they confined their activities to comparatively secure areas like the prisons. We ourselves had intended to return to Iraq for the election but although we have a team on standby, our funding has collapsed and it looks less likely that we will come. We had approached the UK government for funding this time but they indicated that they could only fund observers embeded with UK troops - which we would not find appropriate.