KIRKUK // Electoral monitors yesterday estimated that as many as 150,000 security personnel were left off lists for early voting in Iraq, causing chaos at polling stations across the country. Iraqi hospital staff, prisoners and security service members went to the polls on Thursday. Of greatest concern to observers were the thousands of missing names of police and army officers, but other issues included multiple voting, individuals bringing weapons into polling stations, intimidation and monitors being denied access.
The widespread problems for the poll of fewer than one million do not bode well for tomorrow's election, when the remainder of Iraq's 19 million-strong electorate cast their ballots. As tensions rose, the Independent High Electoral Commission ordered special ballot boxes be opened for those who were not on the lists. "It was the same problem in all the provinces though the extent varied from polling station to polling station," said Ali al Dujaily, secretary for the Tammuz Organization for Social Development, which has 862 observers across the country. "The special boxes caused huge confusion for the process of the election."
IHEC have blamed the ministries of interior and defence for not providing them will full lists of their staff. Mr al Dujaily said it was too early to deduce if the missing names were down to incompetence or tampering. "We have to investigate the details and we have made contact with IHEC to discuss this." In Kirkuk, one of Iraq's most disputed territories and therefore particularly prone to problems of fraud, the situation was similar. Ferhad al Talibani, the head of the local electoral commission, said only about 100 names had been left off the list in the whole province.
However, at Al Wasity, just one of the province's 2,010 polling stations, electoral officials provided a list of over 300 who had not been registered. Jalal Aziz, a Kirkuk representative for Goran, a new Kurdish party contesting traditional KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan power blocs, described the vote as a "disaster" and said its monitors were not allowed into stations all morning. Ayn, a non-governmental group with 1,940 observers, said it had video evidence of voters wiping ink from their fingers and revoting.
A lack of clarity over when polls were supposed to close also added to confusion, with media reporting that opening times had been extended, but staff not properly informed. At Ishirk, in Kirkuk, observers said about 2,700 names were not on the list. Ahmed Nour Mohammed, a monitor for the Islamic Party, said soldiers were coming into the polling stations with weapons and hundreds were still waiting to vote at 8pm, three hours after polls were supposed to have closed.