I don’t know that he intended it to be that way, but Juan Cole’s post today drops a bombshell that proves fraud in Iraq beyond a reasonable doubt. His posts, plus other reports on vote suppression point to a systematic attempt by the Iraqi government to stuff ballot boxes and then adjust the totals when people noticed the high yes vote.
The province in question was Ninevah, a heavily Sunni province. Initially, Cole reported that Ninevah went 75% yes on October 17th. I questioned the result at the time, wondering why an ethnic group so suspicious of the US suddenly turned around and voted yes. Now, Cole’s latest figures show a 55% no vote. A two-thirds no vote would have sunk the Constitution.
Cole’s October 17th count broke the numbers down as follows:
Al-Hayat reports that 643,000 votes were cast in Ninevah Province (capital: Mosul). At the time it filed, 419,000 had been preliminarily counted, and the vote was running 75 percent in favor. Ninevah Province was the most likely place that Sunni Arabs opposing the constitution might be able to get a 2/3s “no” vote.
It is a mathematical impossibility for these numbers to change from 75% yes to 55% no without some sort of ballot-box stuffing going on. Even if every single vote after 419,000 had been a no vote, there still would have been a 48-49% yes vote. This points to a pattern of massive ballot-box stuffing and then altering the final total to make the numbers look more reasonable after the initial results did not pass the smell test.
From Cole’s October 26th entry, comes the Sunni account of what happened:
Sunni figure Salih Mutlak complained that the tallying in Ninevah was carried out by Peshmerga militiamen, who, he alleged, tampered with the ballots. He insisted that the vote in Ninevah was in fact 2/3s against, and that the constitution had really failed, even if the elected Iraqi government would not recognize it. Mutlak intimated that the Sunni Arabs would now boycott the December 15 parliamentary elections.
I believe this, given the ongoing pattern of Iraqi political parties to rely on their own militia groups to make their own laws.
From the October 17th entry comes how Ninevah voted on January 30th:
One of my Iraqi-American correspondents compared the turnout statistics from Ninevah and Diyala provinces last Jan. 30 to those coming out now, and found the current numbers completely unbelievable. He pointed out that the Iraqi Islamic Party had not garnered many votes in Ninevah last January, and its support of the constitution could not hope to explain the hundreds of thousands of “yes” votes the constitution appeared to receive on Saturday.
It is impossible for a province to go from hardly giving any support at all to the current government to overwhelmingly passing the Constitution in this month’s election. That would be like the District of Columbia going 75% red in 2004 after having given Bush only 10% of the vote last time.
There were plenty of instances of vote suppression as well as vote-rigging. From the San Francisco Gate:
Dozens of locals, all planning to vote against the draft constitution, had been turned away from the single polling station in town. Lying 40 miles north of Baghdad and just south of Samarra, Ishaki is in the middle of Iraq’s Sunni central region, Saddam Hussein’s old heartland.
According to election officials here, all those rejected were registered at another polling station 3 miles away — the only place they would be allowed to vote under the referendum’s stringent rules. But a driving ban inside all urban areas, designed to stop suicide bomb attacks, meant these Sunnis, entering the democratic process for the first time, had effectively been disenfranchised.
Hamid Hassan Mohammad, a 28-year-old school principal in the village of Jazeera, part of the wider Ishaki area, said there was a conspiracy to prevent Sunnis from casting votes.
Shortly after being told to leave the polling station, he said, “Maybe they did this on purpose. There are a lot of organizations who have spent a lot of money on this referendum, and they want to see they get the right result. … There are lots of empty ballot papers, and their top officials will be filling them in with ‘yes’ to make sure the constitution passes. It’s the fault of those in high positions and the bosses in Baghdad, and they will fix it.”
In other words, there were people being turned away at polling stations all over Iraq in “No” areas and being forced to walk three miles to the next station. And three miles, in today’s crime-infested Iraq, is like taking your life into your own hands.
Other activities, reported by Al-Jazeera, include closing 60 of 200 voting stations in heavily Sunni Al-Anbar for “security reasons” and the kidnapping of 10 election workers from another polling station.
On October 18th, I gave a summary of additional voting irregularities, culled from the New York Times and Associated Press:
From the AP:
–Unusually high yes votes in 12 provinces; not just Ninevah.
–Police stealing ballot boxes filled with no votes.
–More yes votes than voters in some areas.
–Iraqi soldiers breaking into polling stations at Balquoba and stealing boxes of no votes there.
–Contradictory reports from local and national authorities, with discrepancies as high as 30%.
From the New York Times:
–People voting for absent voters.
–Polling places with modest turnout reporting outrageously high numbers.
–The election monitors were frequently partisan, suggesting a conflict of interest. Kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse.
Al-Jazeera reports on an audit by the electoral commission that concluded that there was no serious fraud. But the problem with the commission, as I pointed out in the NYT summary, was that many of the people involved were heavily partisan. This is like Blackwell being Secretary of State and chairing the Bush-Cheney campaign at the same time last election, only much worse.
Bush’s goal for Iraq was for them to have a fair, free election to approve the Constitution. But he failed to meet that goal because of vote-rigging by the Iraqi government. Therefore, they failed to meet our standards. I suggest that the Bush administration should demand that the Iraqi government do a revote like the Ukranians did when there was conclusive evidence of that there. This time, there should be independent human rights monitors around the polling stations from the Carter Center or another such group.
If the Iraqi government fails to comply with the Bush administration demands, then we should leave and make them fend for themselves the best they can. We cannot be responsible for propping up a government which does not respect the rule of law and which does not trust the judgment of its people.