Sunni, Secular Groups Demand New Vote

Workers take down campaign posters in Baghdad. Election officials said that they had received about 1,000 complaints about the ballot and that about 20 of the infractions, if true, were serious enough to have affected the vote.
Workers take down campaign posters in Baghdad. Election officials said that they had received about 1,000 complaints about the ballot and that about 20 of the infractions, if true, were serious enough to have affected the vote. (By Ceerwan Aziz -- Reuters)

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By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 20 -- Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government.

Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud.

Alluding to Sunnis who chose to abandon their earlier rejection of Iraqi politics and participate in Thursday's election, Adnan Dulaimi, a chief of the main Sunni coalition, the Tawafaq front, demanded: "What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate?"

The preliminary results, he said, were "not in the interest of stability of the country."

Figures released by Iraq's electoral commission indicated that, with ballots from more than 95 percent of boxes counted across the country, the Shiite religious coalition appeared poised to dominate the four-year parliament -- and, with it, selection of the next prime minister.

Though the Shiites' slim majority in the outgoing parliament was expected to dwindle because of high Sunni Arab turnout Thursday, initial calculations showed the Shiite list winning overwhelmingly in 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the most populous, Baghdad. A coalition of ethnic Kurdish parties swept the three northernmost provinces, where Kurds predominate.

The final distribution of seats in the 275-member National Assembly will be decided by a complicated formula that is based on turnout and is skewed to reward small parties by giving them some representation. Electoral commission members cautioned that the election results must be checked and cross-checked and that the allegations of ballot violations would be settled before the results were declared final. That process might last into January, said Farid Ayar, an elections official.

Ayar said Tuesday that among the 1,000 complaints received so far, about 20, if valid, were serious enough to have affected the vote. The complaints included "some forgeries, fraud, and use of force and efforts to intimidate," he told reporters. "We will study all of these very carefully."

Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose secular slate appeared likely to finish fourth in the race and play a small role in the government, also questioned the results and called a meeting for Wednesday of groups angry with the outcome.

And Saleh Mutlak, who headed an independent Sunni slate, said: "I don't think there is any practical point for us for being in this National Assembly if things stay like this.

"This election is completely false. It insults democracy everywhere. Everything was based on fraud, cheating, frightening people and using religion to frighten the people," he said. "It is terrorism more than democracy."

Mutlak said he had expected his slate to capture 70 parliamentary seats, but he said it seemed likely to win fewer than 20, according to the preliminary results.


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