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Sunnis Challenge Early Election Results in Iraq

BY Admin  December 20, 2005 at 6:40 PM EST

Results show a split along ethnic and religious lines giving a commanding lead to the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite Islamist political parties, in Baghdad and Shiite provinces in the South, though it is unlikely to win the majority 184 seats needed to form a non-coalition government.

Sunnis turned out in high numbers after boycotting previous elections, and results from one of the four predominantly Sunni provinces, Salahuddin, showed Sunni parties winning an overwhelming majority. Results also showed Kurdish parties with a strong majority in the three northern provinces.

The Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq released a partial list of results Tuesday that account for 90 percent of the votes in 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, though official results are not expected until January to give time for officials to investigate the complaints.

Sunni leaders said that if the irregularities they claim to have occurred during voting in Baghdad are not corrected, the province must redo the voting. An electoral commission official said that of the 1,000 voter fraud complaints the commission is investigating, only 20 were “very serious,” and they are not expected to change the overall outcome.

In Baghdad, Iraq’s largest electoral district with 59 seats, 89.5 percent of the total votes have been counted giving the United Iraqi Alliance 58.8 percent of the vote. The Iraqi Accordance Front, a coalition of three major Sunni Groups, received about 19 percent, and the Iraqi National List headed by Iyad Allawi, a secular-minded Shiite, got about 14 percent.

The Iraqi Accordance Front warned of “grave repercussions on security and political stability” if the commission did not take actions to correct the irregularities.

The Iraqi National List, called for more transparency within the electoral commission. “The elections commission is not independent. It is influenced by political parties and by the government,” said Ibrahim al-Janabi of the Iraqi National List. “We announce that we have reservations about the counting of the ballots in the commission.”

Al-Janabi complained that that some voting centers didn’t open or were too far away; that some voters were listed on the rolls twice and could have voted more than once; and that some who voted were not registered.

The mostly peaceful elections were hailed as a mile marker in the war-torn country’s transition to democracy. Results will determine the makeup of Iraq’s permanent parliament, the Council of Representatives, that will serve for four-year terms. Of 275 seats, 230 will be allocated according to regional ballots in Iraq’s 18 provinces and a further 45 on a nationwide basis after the initial count.