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Ballot Box Mix-Up

People in and around the northern city of Mosul say they’ve been unjustly deprived of their votes because of logistical errors.
By Mohammed Alban

Election officials in the northern city of Mosul are furious about a mix-up in which Baghdad failed to send them enough ballot papers and boxes in time for the vote.


The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, IECI, sent extra ballot boxes to Mosul on January 31, a day after the elections, as a shortage had prevented thousands of residents from voting.


There was no suggestion the IECI asked them to hold a second poll using the extra ballot boxes. But an election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the local branch of the commission refused even to accept the boxes, saying they now distrusted both the electoral process and the IECI itself.


The official said electoral staff and local representatives of political parties are meeting to formulate a complaint to the IECI about the problems.


Parts of Baghdad and Basrah received insufficient ballot papers, and in some cases none at all.


IECI director Adel al-Lami said on February 1 that the issue of late or missing ballots would be discussed by the commission, but declined to say what action would be taken.


IECI headquarters in Baghdad is currently in the second phase of counting about eight million ballots, and final results are expected to be announced in about a week.


Ballot boxes and papers arrived late or not at all in several towns around Mosul, including Sinjar, Hamdaniyah, Shaikhan, Bartallah, Bashiqah and Qush.


Angry demonstrators, mainly Kurds and Christians, protested in some areas. In Sheikhan, in the northeast corner of Ninewa province, protestors paraded banners saying “Don’t Deprive us of Our Right to Vote" and "The Election is for All", as they chanted in front of the mayors office on January 31.


Some also carried Kurdish flags. Kurdish parties say 200,000 Kurds were deprived of their vote in the Mosul area.


Shaikhan mayor Basil Jooqi said nearly 20,000 people in the town had been prevented from voting, and criticised the IECI for failing to ensure that election materials arrived in time.


Tahsin Beg, the chief of Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority, was at the demonstrations. "We want our voices to reach the Kurdish leadership, the IECI, the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said. “Why did they prevent us voting? We Yezidis and Christians are angry with this situation, and the matter must be resolved one way or another."


In the town of Sinjar, in the west of Ninewa province, a senior official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Fadhil Meerani, said the IECI had supplied 12,000 ballot papers for an electorate of 72,000. He said the IECI did promise to fly in more of the forms, but these never arrived.


Mohammed Alban is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.


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