Reports compiled by the U.S. military in Iraq
from its informants and by non-governmental organizations from independent Iraqi
sources provide the first detailed picture of a campaign of ballot fraud by
Kurdish authorities in Nineveh province, the key to the outcome of the Oct.
15 constitutional referendum.
They show that officials of the Kurdish Democratic Party bused non-resident
Kurds to vote in polling stations in various non-Kurdish areas of Nineveh and
created a climate of fear and intimidation in the province that reduced the
vote against the constitution on the Nineveh plain. They also support Sunni
charges of fraudulent vote totals in the province.
The constitution was formally adopted on Oct. 25 after the Independent Electoral
Commission of Iraq (IECI) certified voting results for Nineveh in which the
Sunnis mustered a 55 percent majority vote against the constitution – short
of the two-thirds vote needed in three or more of Iraq's 18 provinces needed
to defeat it.
The accounts collected by the U.S. military in reports dated Oct. 15-19 were
made available to IPS on condition that they would not be quoted directly and
that the U.S. military unit forwarding them would not be identified.
The first-person accounts gathered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
in Nineveh were obtained and translated by Michael Youash, executive director
of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington. The names of the NGOs
were not provided in the document given to IPS because of fears of reprisals.
None of the accounts reported by the military are from Sunnis. All of the sources
quoted in those reports are either Kurds or trusted Assyrian Christians who
have been advisors to the U.S. military on local developments and are generally
favorable to the constitution. Thus they represent the view from those in the
province least likely to have a political motive for depicting the referendum
The reports compiled by the U.S. military include an account of the voting
in Mosul by an Assyrian Christian source which observes that Kurds voted for
the constitution but represent only a small percentage of the estimated 1.7
million people in the capital – which holds roughly two-thirds the population
of the province.
That account contradicts both widely reported explanations for the alleged
failure of the Sunnis to achieve a two-thirds majority against the constitution
in Nineveh – that the Sunnis in Mosul were divided over the constitution, and
that Kurds represent a very large proportion of the population of the city.
The final official vote total for Nineveh was 395,000 "no" and 323,000
"yes." However the IECI in Nineveh had told the media on Oct. 16 and
again on Oct. 17 that 327,000 people had voted for the constitution and only
90,000 against, with only 25 out of the 300 polling stations in the province
remaining to be counted.
Thus, between the two counts, 5,000 yes votes had apparently disappeared and
295,000 no votes had mysteriously materialized – all from only 25 polling
places. No explanation has ever been provided by election authorities for those
contradictory data. The U.S. military's informant supports the view that Kurdish
and Sunni vote totals in Mosul were significantly altered.
In the towns north and east of Mosul, the military's reporting suggests the
main factor in distorting the vote was the use by Kurdish authorities of "flying
voters" and voter intimidation.
Two different Iraqi advisers to the U.S. military, including one who is identified
as a local political figure and supporter of the U.S. occupation, testified
that the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) transported 500 non-resident Kurdish
voters in a convoy of buses into the town of Bartilla, east of Mosul, to vote.
According to one of the accounts, election workers at the polling station were
forced by a large group of Kurdish militiamen accompanying them to give the
outsiders ballots to vote.
Nineveh Deputy Governor Khasro Goran, a ranking member of the KDP, personally
gave the orders that the 500 Kurds were to be allowed to vote, according to
the second account to the military. The KDP was said to be planning to transport
these 500 voters to other towns on the plain. Although the source said that
the local mayor opposed that plan, the non-Kurdish mayors in the area have no
military forces at their disposal.
Bartilla was not the only instance of "flying voters" reported by
eyewitnesses in Nineveh. According to an account from a local resident, collected
by non-government organizations in Nineveh, a large number of Kurds were brought
into the non-Kurdish town of Alqosh, north of Mosul, in more than 20 buses on
the evening of Oct. 14 and the morning of Oct. 15.
An adviser to the U.S. military who obtained information on the voting in towns
north and east of Mosul reported that the vote in the city of Alqosh was 950
"yes" and 100 "no." Thus the imported Kurdish voters apparently
represented the bulk of the votes counted in that town. Those reported results
suggest that almost the entire population stayed away from the polls, either
out of fear or in protest against the Kurdish vote fraud in the town.
The same military source said 1,220 votes were recorded in the town of Telaskof,
of which 90 percent were "yes" votes, even though he said the majority
of the town did not approve of the constitution. Most eligible voters, according
to the informant, boycotted the election.
In Telkaif, where 70 percent of the votes were recorded as "yes"
votes, according to the military's informant, a local eyewitness in the town
told NGOs that the voting center in the town was staffed entirely by KDP personnel,
including an employee known to the source as a KDP secret police agent.
Elsewhere on the Nineveh plain, the KDP openly displayed its security presence
at polling places. In the town of Sheikhan, according to an account obtained
by NGOs, the KDP staffed the polling place with personnel wearing "Security
Committee for Shaikan District" badges.
The predominantly Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh, in which Kurds represent
only about one percent, was recorded as delivering a vote favoring the constitution
by a margin of six to one, according to the military's informant. The informant
identified fear of the Kurdish militia in the town as a key factor in the outcome.
Kurdish political leaders have made no secret of their intention to attach
Qaraqosh and surrounding areas to Kurdistan, despite the small number of Kurds
there. As the Washington Post reported last August, the local KDP leader
said he hoped Qaraqosh would be ceded to the Kurds after the area "becomes
The same article said Kurdish militia have beaten up anyone who refuses to
go along with their plans, and individuals have been arrested and sent to jails
in Kurdistan for activities that include "writing against the Kurds on
Both U.S. military informants and testimony gathered by civil society leaders
in Nineveh reported that the Kurds had spread the rumor in Nineveh province
that voters who did not vote "yes" would lose their food ration cards.
Many farmers and their families were said by the independent informant to have
voted "yes" on the understanding that would ensure the renewal of
their ration cards.
The picture of voting irregularities and fear in Nineveh sketched out in these
reports from non-Sunni sources collected by the U.S. military and civil society
groups support the complaints about electoral fraud by Sunni political figures.
And they belie the official portrayal of the referendum as a step toward political
legitimacy and democratic development.
(Inter Press Service)