Iraqi Electoral Workers to Audit Results
Iraqi Electoral Workers to Audit Results
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer 19 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Election workers announced "unusually
high" vote counts in Iraq's landmark referendum on the
draft constitution, saying Monday that they will audit
results showing unexpected ratios of "yes" to "no"
votes from some parts of the country.
Word of the unexpected results came as the U.S.
military said its warplanes and helicopters bombed two
western villages Sunday, killing an estimated 70
militants near a site where five American soldiers
died in a roadside blast. Residents said at least 39
of the dead were civilians.
President Bush said he was pleased that Sunni Arabs
cast so many ballots in Saturday's election. Asked
whether the Sunni vote would damage the political
process or increase the likelihood of violence, Bush
said the increased turnout was an indication that
Iraqis want to settle disputes peacefully.
"I was pleased to see that the Sunnis have
participated in the process," Bush said. "The idea of
deciding to go into a ballot box is a positive
But a Sunni Arab lawmaker, Meshaan al-Jubouri, joined
other Sunni officials in claiming fraud. He cited
instances of voting in hotly contested regions by
pro-constitution Shiites from other areas.
Iraq's Electoral Commission announced that numbers
from most provinces "were unusually high according to
the international standards" and so would "require us
to recheck, compare and audit them." The commission
said it would take random samples from some ballot
boxes to check the results.
An official with knowledge of the election process
said that in some areas the ratio of "yes" to "no"
votes seemed far higher or lower than would be
expected. The official cautioned that it was too early
to say whether the figures were incorrect or what
caused the unusual results.
The commission and the official did not say what
regions had the curious returns.
Voting was believed to have been highly polarized
between Sunni Arabs, who largely oppose the charter,
and Shiites and Kurds, who supported it. The main
electoral battlegrounds were provinces with mixed
populations, two of which went strongly "yes."
The province of Diyala, for example, is believed to
have a slight Sunni Arab majority. But reports from
electoral officials there on Sunday reported a 70
percent "yes" vote and a 20 percent "no."
However, Iraq has not had a census for more than 15
years, so judgments of the exact sectarian balance are
Further delaying the count and the posting of final
results, a sandstorm swept over Baghdad on Monday,
grounding air travel. Vote tallies still have to be
flown in from the provinces, and workers at the
central counting center were still examining results
only from the capital and its outskirts.
Figures reported by elections officials in the
provinces to The Associated Press indicated the
constitution appeared to have passed, with the Sunni
Arab attempt to veto it falling short.
The acceptance of the constitution would be a major
step in setting up a democratic government that could
lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Sunday that
violence will continue, even if the constitution is
adopted. She said support for the insurgency would
eventually wane as the country moves toward democracy.
On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers
in a vehicle in the Al-Bu Ubaid village on the eastern
outskirts of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. On
Sunday, a group of about two dozen Iraqis gathered
around the wreckage; they were hit by U.S. airstrikes,
the military and witnesses said.
The military said the crowd was setting another
roadside bomb when F-15 warplanes hit them, killing
about 20 people it described as "terrorists."
But several residents and one local leader said they
were civilians gathering to gawk at and take pieces of
the wreckage, as often occurs after an American
vehicle is hit. U.S. troops had closed off the area
Saturday, so Sunday morning was the first chance for
people to go near it.
Tribal leader Chiad Saad said the airstrike killed 25
civilians. Several others said the same, although they
refused to give their names for fear for their safety.
The other deaths occurred in the nearby village of
The military said gunmen opened fire on a Cobra attack
helicopter that spotted their position. The Cobra
returned fire, killing about 10. The men ran into a
nearby house, where gunmen were seen unloading weapons
before an F/A-18 warplane bombed the building, killing
40 insurgents, the military said.
Witnesses said at least 14 of the dead were civilians.
After a man was wounded in an airstrike, he was
brought into a nearby building that was struck by
warplanes, said the witnesses, who refused to give
their names out of fear for their safety.
An Iraqi journalist reporting for AP said he later saw
the 14 bodies and the damaged building.
Associated Press Television News video showed the dead
included two children and one woman. Witnesses said
seven other children were among the dead. APTN also
showed two children among the wounded.
Few voted in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, on
Saturday either fearing militants' reprisals or out
of opposition to the charter.
A U.S. Marine was also killed by a bomb Saturday in
Saqlawiyah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the military
said. Since the war began in 2003, at least 1,976 U.S.
service members have died, according to an AP count.
On Monday, a drive-by shooting killed two policemen in
Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, and a suicide
bomber attacked a funeral for a sheik in Samarra, 60
miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and
wounding one, police said.
The violence raised to 535 the number of people who
have died in insurgent attacks across Iraq in the last
three weeks leading up to the referendum.
Many Sunnis fear the new decentralized government will
deprive them of their fair share of the country's vast
oil wealth by creating virtually independent
mini-states of Kurds in the north and Shiites in the
south, while leaving Sunnis isolated in central and
Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds
"no" vote in any three of Iraqi's 18 provinces,
according to counts that local officials provided to
AP. In the crucial central provinces with mixed ethnic
and religious populations, enough Shiites and Kurds
voted to stymie the Sunni bid to reject the
The Sunni "no" campaign appeared to have made the
two-thirds threshold in Anbar province, the vast
western Sunni heartland where Ramadi is the capital,
and in Salahuddin, where Sunnis hold a large majority
and as many as 90 percent of voters cast ballots. But
in two other provinces where Sunni Arabs have only
slim majorities Ninevah and Diyala the "yes" vote
apparently won out.
If the constitution indeed passed, the first full-term
parliament since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003 will
install a new government by Dec. 31 following Dec. 15
elections. If the charter failed, the parliament will
be temporary, tasked with drawing up a new draft constitution.