- As the tight security surrounding Sunday's Iraqi elections
began to wind down yesterday, leading Sunni clerics condemned the poll
as illegitimate and said the new Iraqi National Assembly would lack any
mandate to draw up a new constitution for the country.
- In its first statement since the vote, the Association
of Muslim Clerics said the election had little credibility "because
a large portion of those people who represent many spectra have boycotted
it". The association had previously urged Sunnis not to vote, but
analysis of the turnout suggests a late dash to the polls in Sunni areas.
- In many Sunni towns, the vote appears to have been marked
as much by confusion as intimidation. Community leaders say a surge of
interest in the elections brought larger-than-expected numbers to the polls
but many were prevented from casting a vote by a shortage of polling stations,
lack of ballot papers and concerns over security.
- Iraqi election officials have acknowledged ballot shortages
in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra, contributing to the low Sunni turnout. No
official figure for Sunni turnout has yet been given, but the total seems
certain to be less than 50 per cent.
- Mishan Jabouri, leader of the Sunni-dominated Homeland
Party, said he had pleaded with US embassy officials and the election commission
to prepare for a last-minute surge of interest in Sunni Arab strongholds.
"I said, 'please try to open an election centre in Ramadi. Please,
there are not enough ballots in Hawija, not enough in Beiji, not enough
- In one complaint filed by an official of the Homeland
Party in Hawija, a violent Sunni Arab stronghold south-west of Kirkuk,
voters complained ballots ran out at 11.30am and extra ballots did not
arrive until 3.30pm, 90 minutes before the close of voting. Party officials
say 8,000 too few ballots were delivered.
- "The election commission did not distribute ballots
according to needs of each centre, especially in Arab areas," wrote
Mustafa Ahmed al-Tamawi, a party official in Kirkuk.
- Many Sunnis appear to have been torn between outright
suspicion of the election process and a desire to influence the new National
- Maisem Khalil Yacoub and her husband, Sabah al-Tayee,
tried to vote in the Adhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad, where gunfire and
explosions marked the day. But after walking fruitlessly from one closed
election centre to another for three hours in the Sunni area they went
home without voting.
- "There has been an injustice," said Ms Yacoub,
a 35-year-old cemetery worker.
- More than two million Kurds in northern Iraq took part
in the poll and Kurdish leaders claimed that self-rule is now inevitable
if not imminent. An informal referendum conducted by volunteers in parallel
with the election found 95 per cent of Kurds supported independence from
Baghdad. Iraqi Kurds have long pushed for independence, but Turkey, Iran
and Syria - all with substantial Kurdish minorities - oppose the establishment
of Kurdish state on their borders. The organisers surveyed Kurds as they
emerged from polling stations across northern Iraq. The results have not
been independently verified.
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.