Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Saddam's Elections Still Fresh in People's Minds

By Ghassan Ali in Karbala (ICR No. 108, 01-Feb-05)

Oda Sakran, a 63-year-old farmer in this mainly Shia region, failed to take part in the 2002 elections, in which official figures showed that Saddam received nearly 100 per cent of the vote.

For his omission Sakran was arrested and tortured, and his food rations were then severely cut. This year, he felt obliged to vote because of that bitter experience. "I don't want to have problems with those [political] parties because they don't respect anyone," he said, by way of explanation.

Other Karbala resident said rumours were circulating that people would be arrested if they didn't turn up for the polls.

Fatima Hasan, a 50-year-old illiterate woman, said she went to the polls for fear of being kicked out of her home. "I participated in the election to protect myself and my children," she said. "But we don't want to interfere in politics as it will bring us difficulties."

Mustafa Abd Ali, a polling station manager, said the main irregularities he observed on election day were the result of people not really understanding how the system worked.

When he saw people putting blank ballot papers into the boxes, he asked them what they were up to. They told him they were afraid that if they chose one party, another party was sure to be angry with them.

"I saw other people putting a mark next to all the coalition lists on the ballot," added Abd Ali. "When I asked them why they were doing this, they replied that they supported them all."

Ghassan Ali is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

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