Sunday :: Jan 30, 2005

Degree Of Sunni NonParticipation Now Becoming Clear


by Steve

Tomorrow’s Guardian reports that revised estimates in Iraq put the turnout at 57%, down from the preliminary 72% earlier in the day. Still, given the violence and lack of security, that’s pretty damn good. Also, it appears that the Shia have learned a thing or two from the GOP. But it appears that as suspected, the Sunnis were AWOL today.

The results and the official turnout will not be known for at least 10 days. But shortly after the polls had closed an official from the party leading a powerful Shia coalition said, as expected, that their surveys suggested the coalition had come out ahead. "According to our public opinion surveys in all the provinces, we won," said Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Sounds like Gallup found work overseas, huh?

The party heads an alliance of Shia religious parties known as the United Iraqi Alliance which has been tacitly endorsed by Iraq's leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. One Iraqi election monitoring group, the Tammuz Network, said that in the town of Diwaniya, in the south, leaflets were handed round threatening voters who did not choose the Shia list. It found four polling centres in Suleikh, in Baghdad, which appeared to be under the control of members of the Shia parties.

Is Ken Blackwell at work in Iraq too?

But as more and more details come out about today’s vote, it appears that many Sunni areas were empty of voters and those that wanted to vote faced some of the same hurdles that African Americans faced in Ohio.

It was not bitterness but bureaucracy that thwarted another Sunni former officer. Lieutenant-Colonel Mowatassem al-Jebouri, a former fighter pilot, and several neighbours banded together to go and vote in the restive western district of Ghazaliya only to be told by intransigent officials that he was registered in another part of the neighbourhood. The traffic ban meant he could not travel there, so he went home fuming. In a few Sunni areas like Hay al-Adel, close to the dangerous highway to Fallujah, many Sunnis ventured to the polls despite early outbreaks of fighting. “At first, nobody dared go out. But later when they saw it was reasonably quiet, those who lived close to the voting centres went,” said Omar Nadum, an engineer.

But in most Sunni-dominated areas, like Yarmouk, the streets remained empty all day .

In Addumiyah, the last place Saddam Hussein visited as president in the dying days of the 2003 invasion, several polling centres did not even open.

In Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, candidates who had hoped for up to 40 per cent turnout were disappointed as voters failed to materialise.

The sporadic voting pattern was apparent in many parts of the so-called Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad, though officials said that voting picked up after a slow start.

In Samarra, where guerrillas frequently clash with security forces, the streets were empty all morning. “Nobody came. People were too afraid,” said Madafar Zeki, in charge of the polling centre there.

Preliminary figures suggested only 1,400 people voted in a city of 200,000.

1,400 out of 200,000?

According to the AP,

Many cities in the Sunni triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji, were virtually empty of voters also.

With those kind of numbers in Sunni areas, it would appear that Allawi’s party will have some difficulty controlling the Assembly charged with writing the constitution.

Steve :: 7:32 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!