Initial Count Shows Arab Blocs Ahead in Mosul Polls

by RUDAW 7 hours ago

An Iraqi policeman searches a man as he enters a polling station in Falluja, June 20, 2013. Photo: AP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s election commission said that an Arab bloc had won the largest number of votes in provincial elections in Mosul on Thursday and that the Kurds had come second, according to a preliminary count.

But commission officials also warned that the final results might change after investigating reports of irregularities at some polling station, as the opposition parties accused the main Kurdish parties of violating election laws and dressing soldiers as civilians to vote for them.

Thursday’s elections in the two volatile Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar and Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, were held two months behind schedule.

Miqdad Sharifi, head of the election commission, told reporters in Baghdad on Saturday that Al-Mutahudin, an Arab bloc headed by Osama Nujeifi, had won most of the votes in Mosul, and that Kurdish parties running under the Brotherhood and Coexistence banner had come second.

Golshan Kamal, an official at the election commission said that the final results could change, after the commission studies complaints by some groups about vote rigging.

In a joint press conference a day after the elections, Kurdistan’s opposition groups accused the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is said to have won most of the Kurdish votes, of violating election rules in the town of Makhmur.

The Change Movement (Gorran), the Islamic Union and the Islamic League released a joint statement listing 10 points of violation of the election law by the ruling parties.

The opposition said that the ruling parties had allowed soldiers disguised as civilians to vote, provided fake identity cards for voters, did not provide adequate security around the polling stations and that party-related organizations had continued to campaign during voting hours.

However, Ali Awani, a member of KDP’s political assembly, told Rudaw that the accusations were unfair. The opposition parties were just disappointed that they did not gain the votes they had expected, he claimed.

“Meanwhile, we are open to forming a coalition with the Arab groups,” Awni added.

Mosul, one of Iraq’s most violent cities over the past decade, was shaken by a series of bombings that injured dozens of voters on election day.

“But despite the bombings there was a considerable turnout of Kurdish voters,” Awni said.

Meanwhile, the KDP head in Mosul, Ismat Rajab, said that a low turnout of Arab voters in the city due to security concerns had served the Kurdish candidates well, “Thanks to the high turn out of Kurdish voters in the outskirts.”

Kurdish officials in Mosul said that better safety and stability in the outskirts - where many Kurds live - had encouraged people to head to the polling stations.

More than 1.5 million eligible voters in Nineveh cast their ballots at some 700 polling stations across the province.

More than 670 candidates fought for 39 seats in the provincial council. Three of those seats are reserved for the province’s Christians, Yezidi and Shabak religious minorities.

US officials in Iraq, who have been closely watching Iraq’s recent Shiite-Sunni tensions with concern, applauded the people of Mosul and Anbar for the elections.

“The United States congratulates Iraq for conducting successful provincial elections in Anbar and Nineveh today, ensuring that the citizens of these two provinces have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights at the ballot box,” the US embassy in Baghdad said on its website.

“This day did not pass without violence, however. We condemn the attacks that occurred at polling stations in both provinces that wounded a number of Iraqis,” the embassy added