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Monday, October 17, 2005

Voting on the Iraqi constitution

The voting on the Iraqi constitution has apparently gone well, in that many people voted. I'm trying to find figures to compare turnout in this election and the previous one, but it's not easy.

This is mostly because the provisional figures released so far seem a bit all over the map. This morning Juan Cole was blogging about possible fraud in Nineveh because of the allegedly strong yes vote in a province that was expected to split roughly 50/50.

His comments seem to be based on the numbers given by Yahoo


• Yes: 326,774, (78 percent)

• No: 90,065, (21 percent)

• Disqualified votes: 2,965 (less than 1 percent)

• Votes counted: 419,804 votes, from 475 of the 500 polling stations counted so far. (Turnout percentage unknown.)

CNN however are reporting a different set of numbers

"A senior Iraqi official said on Monday that while 424,00 of the province's 778,000 voters said "No" to the charter, this fell short of the two thirds necessary to reject it."

These numbers could both be accurate, but only if the uncounted 25 polling stations Yahoo reported had 300 000 voters between them or 12 000 each, which seems unlikely.

The basic point I'm trying to make is that the numbers coming out of the preliminary counts are not reliable. The same sort of thing happened during the first election. In the circumstances it's probably better if officials on the ground keep their mouths shut until they have some solid news to report.

The rumour mill will inevitably lead to allegations of vote rigging when the revised numbers are reported, especially if (as looks likely) two provinces have voted no by more than 2/3rds with Nineveh more or less tied. The extremists will find plenty of people willing to believe the ballot in Nineveh was rigged.

One thing that does seem to be suggested by the numbers is that the pattern of voting has changed significantly. Continuing with Nineveh province... The Wikipedia states that there were 165 000 voters in January (assuming those who voted in the national election also voted in the local one). This suggests that the residents of Nineveh have become much more likely to vote.

However even with what is widely reported as a surge in Sunni participation the overall turnout is apparently barely higher this time than in January. Since Sunni's make up 20% of Iraq it seems that for every ten new Sunni participants the process has lost about eight other Iraqi's. This could be because in provinces where the overwhelming majority are going to vote yes many people feel they're not going to bother. Or it could be because some people have lost faith in the government. I expect it's a bit of both.

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