Voting Tallies Provoke Investigation

Voting Tallies Provoke Investigation
As US Jets Kill 70

The US military launched air strikes around Ramadi on Monday, killing 70 persons. Iraqi police maintained that 20 of them were innocent civilians, including some children. The US military said it had received no such reports. Five US GIs were killed at Ramadi this weekend, and the city largely refused to have anything to do with the constitutional referendum. Whatever the reality, Sunni Arabs, whose nerves are raw from losing in their attempt to stop the constitution, will likely believe the story about the US bombing children. The guerrilla war is set to go on a long time.

Suspicions of irregularities in the voting tallies being reported in some provinces in Iraq have provoked the Higher Electoral Commission to conduct an investigation. In six Shiite-majority provinces in the South, 95 percent or more of voters are reported as having cast votes favoring the constitution. The proportion of those voting “yes” was not in and of itself suspicious in those provinces, but the commission felt that anything over 90 percent should be looked at again.

The provinces affected seem largely to be in the hands of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and it seems to me possible that SCIRI ballot counters may have been overly enthusiastic about the constitution. Personally, I think this phenomenon is a harbinger of things to come in the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

Sunni Arab leaders warned of serious consequences if fraud were proved with regard to the vote in Ninevah. Aljazeera is reporting that there are contradictory reports for Ninevah, the third possible province in which Sunni Arabs might hope to defeat the constitution by a 2/3s margin. One report said that the “no” vote there was 55 percent, not enough to cause the 3-province veto to kick in (Sunni Arabs in Anbar and Salahuddin had already rejected it by a 2/3s majority). But Abd al-Razzaq al-Juburi, the secretary general of the Independent Iraqi Front, told the correspondent for al-Zaman that the “no” vote in Ninevah exceeded 75 percent, according to his conversations with election workers. He said that they were under enormous pressure not to speak about this issue from unidentified higher-ups. (My guess is that al-Juburi is himself exaggerating– a 75 percent rejection is too high for Ninevah.) Another official said that out of 778,000 votes cast in Ninevah, 442,000 were “no” votes, and 353,000 were “yes” votes.

It does seem likely that all three Sunni Arab-majority provinces have rejected the constitution, even if not by the margin required to defeat it, and that this outcome is the worst possible one. For the rejection to be consistent within a single bloc is a very bad sign for the future of the country.

The Washington spinmeisters who are trying to say that the mere fact of the Sunnis voting is a good thing, even if they voted against the constitution, do no know what they are talking about. Political participation is not always a positive thing. The Nazis after all were elected to the Reichstag. And Serbs consistently voted for Milosevic and other ultra-nationalists. Nobody in Washington thought it positive that Iranian hardliners came out in some numbers to vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some elections are tragedies for a nation. This constitutional referendum was one of them.

Even without a hint of fraud, the new constitution is provocation enough. It probably reduces the Sunni Arab share of national petroleum resources to 5 or 10 percent. The Association of Muslim Scholars was hopping mad. AP says, ‘ “If the constitution was passed, the attacks will definitely rise against the occupation forces and the security situation is going to get worse,” said Sheik Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a prominent cleric. ‘

In contrast, Iran is jumping up and down for joy that the constitution appears to have passed and that there will be elections Dec. 15 for a 5-year parliament, predicting a “bright future” for Iraq. Fox Cable News might consider booking more Iranian officials; they seem to be entirely with the program.

Al-Zaman says that in Babil province, with its capital at Hilla, there was 65 percent turnout and 70 percent voted in favor of the constitution. This result is plausible, since Babil is a mixed province with Sunnis as well (in the so-called “Triangle of Death.”)

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