Accessibility links

Iraq Report: February 4, 2005

4 February 2005, Volume 8, Number 5
IRAQ ELECTION WEB PAGE. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has launched a web page on Iraq's 30 January elections ( The page contains valuable information on Iraqi parliamentary, Kurdish parliamentary, and provincial elections, including featured reports and archived election coverage, as well as English-language transcripts of Radio Free Iraq interviews and reports on the elections; commentaries from the Iraqi press; a list of the major contenders on the ballot; a comprehensive list of the political parties competing in the election; and a summary of the stances of some parties. It also features an interactive map that provides detailed information on the situation in each governorate, or province.


By Kathleen Ridolfo

Iraq's first foray into democratic elections in 54 years has been hailed as the first step in the transformation of the country.

Iraq's modern history has been a tumultuous one: it has seen a monarchy toppled, numerous coups, dictatorships, and three wars in the past 25 years. The election stands as an achievement for the Iraqi people, who stood in the face of terrorist threats to cast their ballots. Election officials said on 30 January that 5,171 polling centers out of 5,230 opened on election day. Makeshift polling centers were also reportedly opened outside areas of resistance to help facilitate voting, officials said.

Although official figures are still not available, election officials on 30 January estimated that 72 percent of voters that had registered to vote cast their ballots. That number was later scaled down with Independent Electoral Commission head Adil al-Lami telling RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq on 31 January, "The percentage was a rough estimate. I think in all elections in any country of the world the turnout will not equal the original number of voters. It cannot go higher than 70 percent. If we get 40, 30, 50 or 55 percent, this will be a very good turnout." In Sunni areas, such as Ba'qubah and Al-Fallujah, the media estimates that the turnout was around 30 percent -- low by international standards, but given the threats of insurgents in these Sunni-dominated areas, the turnout is being interpreted as a success. Iraqis interviewed at polling centers across the country expressed their joy and determination to vote.

The efforts of the Iraqi police and National Guard to secure polling centers is an extraordinary achievement. In Mosul, three thousand policemen abandoned their posts in November when insurgents attempted to gain control over areas of the city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 and 15 November 2004). In December, 700 election workers resigned en masse (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 January 2005). The city's police chief was fired and replaced in early January, tasked with the enormous challenge of preparing Iraq's third most-populated city for elections. In the end, turnout appears to have been moderate, and violence was curbed.

Still, reports indicate that at some polling centers in the governorate did not open when election workers failed to come to work. Al-Sharqiyah television questioned electoral commission spokesman Farid Ayar about comments attributed to Deputy Governor Khasraw Goran in which he said that four polling centers failed to open after they did not receive election materials. "This did not happen. We have distributed all the supplies, forms, and ballot boxes based on a tight plan to all areas. I do not know how [Goran] said this. We are certain that our work was good, although there is a possibility for human error. Any person might make a mistake. However, this did not happen," Ayar contended. Goran escaped an assassination attempt in Mosul on 30 January in an attack that wounded two of his guards, Kurdistan Satellite television reported.

Voter turnout appeared strong in the Kurdish-dominated western side of Mosul. Turnout was lower in the city's Sunni-dominated sector on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, reported on 30 January. U.S. Army Major Anthony Cruz told the website that about 60 percent of polling centers had turned in results by 6 p.m., indicating that at least 53,000 ballots had been cast. One polling center in a Sunni neighborhood visited by a reporter had not had one voter save 15 Iraqi soldiers on duty there some three hours into the voting period, the website reported on 31 January. Another polling center in the Sunni-area of the city reported only 60 ballots being cast there, despite a plea issued by Iraqi security forces over a nearby mosque's loudspeaker calling on citizens to come out and vote.

Major General John Batiste, who commands the Army's 1st Infantry Division responsible for security in the governorates of Diyala, Salah Al-Din, Al-Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk (Ta'mim), told that the "ineffective attacks" of insurgents hampered fewer than 3 percent of the 951 polling centers in four governorates in north-central Iraq.

In Kirkuk, where tensions between Kurds and Turkomans have increased in recent days, the vote was said to have gone smoothly. Najem al-Rubay'i, spokesman for an independent observer group called Ain, told AFP there were attacks that he described as "minor" against one polling center. "But the operation continued normally," he said. A Kurdistan Satellite Television reporter accused members of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, which is supported by Ankara, of "trying to create problems and instability at polling stations" by "alleging" there were irregularities regarding both their voter and candidate lists.

Despite the apparent calm in Kirkuk, Turkish officials criticized the vote on 31 January. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told in an interview posted on 31 January that there was a real threat of civil war breaking out in Kirkuk, claiming that his country has been cautious in its approach to the issue by issuing clear warnings to Kurdish and American leaders about its concerns. His remarks prompted the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, Sabah Osman, to say: "I understand the concerns of the Turkish government. The information they receive [on Kirkuk] is exaggerated, however," NTV reported on 31 January. Osman added that he did not expect a civil war to break out in Kirkuk.

Turkoman Front officials in Ankara complained on 31 January that their list's logo was excluded from the expatriate ballot, Anatolia news agency reported. Ahmet Muratli attributed the error to the International Organization for Migration, which was responsible for organizing the expat vote, saying the absence of the logo "is not a simple mistake and it cannot be passed over lightly with a single apology. This is an intentional behavior against the ITC [Iraqi Turkoman Front] and the ITC believes that it was perpetrated upon the direction of the [ethnic] Kurdish foreign minister of Iraq," he added, in an apparent reference to interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari.

In Al-Najaf, Tawfiq Abbas al-Bidari said that his party, Free Republic, had registered to participate in the governorate's election, only to find that it was not on the ballot on 30 January, Radio Free Iraq reported on the same day. Al-Bidari called for a new election in the governorate. Meanwhile, other local election lists complained that Governor Adnan al-Zurufi's list violated the electoral commission regulation banning campaigning 48 hours before the polls opened. RFI reported on 29 January that al-Zurufi had continued campaigning, even sending police to hand out posters for his list.


By Kathleen Ridolfo

Although the final vote count on Iraq's transitional National Assembly is still days away from being announced, Iraqi political parties and groups have already begun jockeying for power in the new government. Shi'ite, Kurdish, and Sunni groups have issued a number of statements since the 30 January election that give some insight into how they intend to proceed in the coming months.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on 31 January announced his intention to forge a national dialogue that would include Sunni opposition groups who boycotted national elections. To this end, media reports indicate that he has begun a series of meetings with Sunnis who did participate, including veteran Iraqi diplomat Adnan Pachachi, Constitutional Monarchy Movement head Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, and Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir.

"We hope after [the Independent Electoral Commission announces] the names, the winning lists, percentages, to hold contacts among the various political forces in Iraq and the lists that were elected," Allawi told Al-Arabiyah on 31 January. "There are preliminary contacts that have started among some political parties in Iraq and we hope that these contacts will be intensified within the next two weeks." Asked who he considered his allies to be, Allawi said: "Without getting into details, my allies are those who believe in Iraq's territorial integrity and unity; freedom; the rule of law; Iraqi's dignity; a unified federal democratic Iraq; Iraqi's values, heritage, civilization; and the unity of the Iraqi society. These are my allies in the past, present, and future."

One group that may not be one of Allawi's allies is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The organization's leader, Ammar al-Hakim, told London's "Al-Hayat" this week that there is "no room for talk about power sharing" with Allawi "because [SCIRI's] information and expectations indicate a sweeping victory with a large majority [voting] for the United Iraqi Alliance list." Al-Hakim then tempered his position, saying that "our political program calls for building bridges with all parties and forces and opposes monopolization of power." He added that the Shi'ite alliances plan for the next political stage calls for the participation of all parties, including those that boycotted the elections.

Other members of the Shi'ite list reportedly held meetings with Kurdish leaders even before the election to solidify their positions. Faysal al-Lami of the Shi'ite Political Council led by Iraqi National Congress head Ahmad Chalabi told "Al-Hayat" that the council's contacts with the Kurds remain ongoing and aim at reviving "the Shi'ite-Kurdish alliance on new bases," the daily reported on 2 February. Al-Lami added that the Al-Sadr II Movement led by anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will be part of the alliance. Al-Sadr representative Sheikh Ali Sumaysim reportedly has plans to meet with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani, according to al-Lami, to discuss the two sides' versions of the new government, "Al-Hayat" reported.

Meanwhile, Ahmad al-Safi, an aide to Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, hinted in a 1 February interview with Al-Diyar television that some Shi'ites may have a problem with the Transitional Administrative Law, which is interpreted by some to grant special privileges to the Kurds.

Al-Safi said the law is "unfair," adding it may not be binding on Iraqis, because, he claimed, it "does not have any legitimacy, especially since it was not adopted by the UN Security Council." "Complaints about the law were numerous and they still exist," al-Safi added. "I am not giving a final opinion here, but I say that perhaps the transitional Iraqi State Administration Law is not binding on us. We still do not see a reason for us to abide by this law. Yes, the law managed the state until now, until 30 January. But after that, the law is unable to address what might happen in the future." He also rejected the law because of its stipulation that the new constitution can be rejected if a majority in three governorates vote against it, saying, "This is not practical." Three Kurdish governorates could, in effect, reject the constitution under the law.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani was asked in a 31 January interview with Al-Arabiyah television about reports that a deal was struck between the Kurdish parties and the Shi'ite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance list that would give the presidency to Talabani and the seat of prime minister to the alliance. Talabani denied that a deal had been struck. "This is not really true," he said. "As you know, we have good historical relations with the parties of the United Iraqi Alliance. We had earlier discussed the issue of distributing main responsibilities in Iraq, but we did not agree on a clear and certain plan. What took place was an exchange of ideas."

Asked about the inclusion of Sunni oppositionists in the drafting of a permanent constitution, Talabani said: "We insisted and continue to insist on a constitution that is approved by the Iraqi people's main political entities. By this I mean the Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs and the people of Kurdistan. The constitution cannot be written on the basis of minority or majority. There must be agreement among all. I call on the nationalist parties that boycotted the elections -- including the Islamic Party and other antiterror national elements that did not participate in the elections -- to participate in the committees that will be formed to write the constitution. Their opinion must be taken into consideration."

Sunni opposition members have taken somewhat divergent stands in their position on the new transitional assembly. The Muslim Scholars Association released a statement on 2 February claiming that the elections "lacked legitimacy" because of the boycott of some Sunni Islamist groups. "This means the coming national assembly and government that will emerge will not possess the legitimacy to enable them to draft the constitution or sign security or economic agreements," the statement said.

Muslim Scholars Association spokesman Umar Raghib spoke to Al-Arabiyah on 2 February about the statement, saying, "We will give [the new government] a chance to show its goodwill and to offer proof of the sincerity of the promises it made to the Iraqi people, led by driving the occupation out. If it does that, we will treat it with respect." Asked why the association does not start to take part in the political process now, Raghib said: "I do not think that the occupation forces would allow any government to be formed unless this government follows its dictates.... This is what we see. Let the occupation leave and then we will be ready for everything."

Sheikh Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarra'i, a Sunni imam and member of the Muslim Scholars Association, told Al-Arabiyah television in a 1 February interview that the association "respects the viewpoints of the Iraqis whether they boycotted or took part in the elections." Al-Samarra'i said that interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir's 1 February call for a national dialogue on the drafting of the constitution that includes all groups, including those that boycotted the elections, was a good step. Asked how the association would respond, al-Samarra'i said: "We are studying the issue. We welcome any action which seeks and encourages Iraq's unity and liberating Iraq through any means on which the Iraqis agree," adding that al-Yawir has credibility among Muslim Scholars Association members, who respect the interim president.

Meanwhile, association spokesman Bashar al-Faydi said that the association respects the groups that took part in the elections, adding that the association will respect the next government and will consider it a caretaker government because it represents part of the Iraqi people, Al-Sharqiyah television reported.


By Kathleen Ridolfo

The Kurdistan Referendum Movement polled Iraqi Kurds outside polling stations across the northern Iraqi governorates of Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk, and in the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul on 30 January asking them if they wanted independence from Iraq, international media reported. The movement has been vocal in its push for the holding of an official referendum on secession, despite denials by some members of the movement that its goal is a future Kurdish state.

Member Kner Abdullah told Radio Free Iraq in December that the goal of the movement "is to deliver the Kurdish voice to the civilized world. The only thing we demand is conducting a general referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and finding out what the Kurds want through a free plebiscite. We do not take any premature decisions before we know the results of the referendum." She later added that the movement "does not demand the separation [of Kurdistan from Iraq], it was only the biased satellite stations and some radios that did broadcast this claim and thus have damaged the movement," (for full interview, see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 December 2004).

The 30 January poll asked Kurdish voters: "Do you want Kurdistan to be part of Iraq? Or do you want an independent Kurdistan?" Abdullah told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting ( that the results of the referendum would be sent to the United Nations and European Union, the organization reported on 1 January. "This is a preliminary step for Kurds' self-determination, so that the UN can come in the future and hold an official and legal referendum, as has been held for many oppressed peoples in the world," she said. The movement claimed last year to have collected two million signatures in support of an official referendum on Kurdish self-determination, reported.

Irbil's "Khabat" reported on 2 February that the 99.5 percent of the people in Kurdistan taking part in the poll said they wanted independence. It is unclear how many signatures were collected on 30 January. Bekes Hamid Qadir, a member of the movement's higher committee, told the daily: "It seems that our effort has paid off, and we were able to conduct an opinion poll close to the polling stations in all cities in Kurdistan, including Kirkuk and Mosul�.It is quite clear that a large number of people participated enthusiastically in this opinion poll and I can say that they voted with the same enthusiasm for the independence of Kurdistan. Very few people voted for Kurdistan to remain a part of Iraq." Regarding his movement's claim that nearly 100 percent voted in favor of independence, he said: "We have no influence over the opinions, our role was to carry out the opinion poll and to show the Kurdistani people's wishes about the two clear options."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari reacted unfavorably to the movement's election day poll. He told "Financial Times" in an interview published on 1 February that the movement's actions affected "the credibility of the Kurdish leadership when we need to speak with one language�[in] going for the big prize of a democratic, federal and united Iraq."


RFI [Abdulkhaliq Sultan, correspondent in Dahuk]:

This is the voice of a crowd of Sheykhan [known also as Ayn Sifni] district, situated between Dahuk and Mosul governorates, the inhabitants of which protested today against [the fact that] they could not participate in the Iraqi elections yesterday. All inhabitants of Sheykhan [district] -- Yezidis, Muslims, and Christians -- took part in the demonstrations. Tahsin-beg, the prince of Yezidis all over the world whose residence is here [in Sheykhan], called on the Iraqi government through our radio station:

Tahsin-beg: To the Iraqi government, in Iraq. To the U.S. embassy. To the British embassy. To the embassies of all countries. We, [the people of] Sheykhan district -- Yezidis, Muslims, and Christians -- were waiting in flocks to elect whom we wished. Up to now, no ballot box has come where the flocks of people could cast their votes. All the people are upset because they could not participate in the elections. I ask the officials from the [Iraqi] Highest [Independent Electoral] Commission to investigate in the matter.

RFI: Imam of the mosque in Sheykhan, Mullah Yunis, also expressed his regret with the following words:

Mullah Yunis: We, the flocks of people from Sheykhan district, have gathered today in Sheykhan in order to deliver our voices to the whole world because we have been deprived of our rights -- from long ago up to this day. In the eighties, we were deprived of our right of everything, in all spheres of life. We were deprived of our economic, political, and social rights. We were not left the right of anything. Instead of these rights, we were given only banishment, killing, and genocide. Now, we all were expecting this moment [of elections], the happiest moment for Kurdistan and for Iraq, but we were very regrettably deprived of this historic opportunity to cast our votes in these moments. Very regrettably, we were deprived of this right and we could not cast our votes. That is why we demand from all international institutions to deliver our voice to the world because we were deprived of this right.

RFI: Dr. Basil Joqi, head of Sheykhan district, spoke about the number of people who were deprived of voting:

Joqi: We would like that our voice reaches through your radio station all whom it may concern so that those who stood behind this negligence of not sending ballot boxes to Sheykhan district are made liable for that. Today, masses of people of Sheykan district have taken part in demonstrations and protests against those who had caused the ballot boxes to not arrive, demanding severe punishment for them. They also demanded that Sheykhan district become a part of Kurdistan [autonomous] region and that the current administrative division be changed. Thank you.

RFI: Colonel Salim Salih Salim, police commander in Sheykhan, spoke about the security situation in Sheykhan township yesterday:

Salim: It was possible for us to go to Ninawah governorate [headquarters, of which Sheykhan is a part] and bring ballot boxes to Sheykhan district. We all -- both from Sheykhan township and from the village complexes under the administration of Sheykhan district -- were ready to participate in that. So there is no excuse for them [the electoral commission] that the road was not secured. The way was secured from us to Mosul. The National Guard, the police, and even some peshmerga [Kurdish militiamen] were along the road. There can be no excuse in this. They brought the ballot boxes [to Mosul] and we were ready [to take them over]. But the [ballot] boxes did not reach Sheykhan district.

RFI: In the end, we interviewed one of the observers who was about to perform surveillance over the process of elections. He told us the following:

Salim: In fact, we are from the United Nations High Commissioner [for Refugees] and especially from the IOM [International Organization for Migration]. [We were here] to follow and observe how the elections are conducted in the area of Sheykhan and some villages. Very regrettably, it happened what happened. We went out yesterday in the morning, at five a.m., to expect [the arrival of] the ballot boxes. Election centers had been specified and all security measures in the area adopted. We had an instant and direct [telephone] connection with the [Iraqi Highest Independent Electoral] Commission. But some kind of negligence, or unexpected development of the matters, has happened and caused embarrassment to us. We have started to examine the reasons of the delay of [ballot] boxes.

RFI: The administration of Sheykhan district issued in the name of the demonstrating people a statement, a copy of which we received, demanding that Sheykhan district be attached to the Kurdistan [autonomous] Region and prosecuting those responsible for [the fact that] ballot boxes did not arrive.

RFI also Issued the following report on 31 January:

RFI [Ahmad Said, correspondent in Mosul]:

In the morning of Monday [31 January], mass demonstrations erupted in Ayn Sifni township, an administrative center of a district [qada'] some 45 kilometers north of Mosul. The demonstration protested against [the fact that many] people from the township and the district were deprived of voting because ballot boxes were not sent to the township. Dilshad Nu'man Farhan, a member of the Yezidi Kurdish Cultural Center Lalish and a member of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate told Radio Free Iraq that some 74, 000 inhabitants of the district have the right to vote. Despite that, and even after [initial] protests from citizens, only 40, 000 [sets of] ballot papers were sent to the district and only one single polling station was opened for 50, 000 voters, which is unfeasible for properly conducting the elections.

Also Ba'shiqa township, which is an administrative center of a county (nahiya) close to the Maqlub mountain some 15 kilometers east of Mosul, witnessed mass demonstrations yesterday evening in a protest against [the fact that] ballot boxes and ballot papers were not sent to the township and the villages of its county. Some protesters, overcome by their strong anger, were pulling down the Iraqi flag from some government buildings.

In Sinjar, a district [qada'] on Iraqi-Syrian borders inhabited mainly by Kurds, protests and unrest have also appeared after ballot boxes and ballot papers were not sent to the district. Today, a demonstration in this matter has been organized by activists from two main Kurdish political parties -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They told Radio Free Iraq that not providing ballot boxes and ballot papers to four Kurdish districts in Mosul governorate [officially called Ninawah] was an intentional act that they described as an anti-Kurdish conspiracy.

On a related level, representatives of six Kurdish parties are to meet today at noontime with government representatives in the headquarters [of the governor] of Ninawah governorate in order to discuss the shortcomings that accompanied the electoral process in Mosul governorate.