While the themes of the March 7 Iraqi elections may have been nationalism and democracy, behind-the-scenes actions at polling stations and during the vote count point to disturbing trends.
Dozens of reports have emerged from voting stations throughout southern Iraq and abroad that election officials assigned by the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) have intimidated, threatened, and forced voters to choose Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, and his State of Law coalition.
Several elections officials were disqualified. In Jordan, police were called to settle a very heated argument between two polling observers. In London, police scuffled with Kurdish voters who had improper Iraqi national certificates and were disallowed to vote. It was reported that Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president intervened, and the Kurds were allowed to cast their votes.
No investigation was carried to examine why their papers were believed to have been faulty.
And the IHEC is now coming under scrutiny. Hours after polls closed, members within the Shia-dominated State of Law coalition started to declare victory. The IHEC said they would declare poll results based on a count of 30 percent of votes on Tuesday, March 9.
This was then postponed to March 10. On Wednesday afternoon, there was yet another delay and the IHEC promised Thursday, March 11 to release the results of the 30 percent count.
Meanwhile, the world media which lauded the elections as free and fair - and some conservatives highlighted the efficacy of the Bush administrations efforts to create a true democratic state in the radical Muslim World - has failed to pick up on this.
What's the hold-up? Unless it is to cook the results?
Check this out:
For Immediate Release 10 March 2010
IRAQI ELECTIONS UPDATE
SUSPICIOUS DELAY IN ANNOUNCING POLL RESULTS
There have been suspicious delays in announcing the election results in Iraq, amid fears that extensive efforts are underway to distort the real outcome of the poll.
Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Struan Stevenson MEP, President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq said:
"On Monday, March 8, the election commission in Iraq announced that by Tuesday, 30% of ballots would be counted and the results would be made public. But, regrettably, the commission refrained from announcing the results as the day closed. I now understand that the count has been completed, but still no results have been announced. This makes me deeply suspicious that attempts are going on behind the scenes to manipulate the outcome of the poll. Following the illegal expulsion of over 500 secular, anti-sectarian candidates on trumped-up de-Baathification charges and endless accounts of violence, intimidation and blatant fraud throughout the poll, I fear that the mullah's regime in Tehran may now be trying to install a puppet Prime Minister in Iraq.
"I have been telephoned and emailed by many people since the polls closed, including journalists, police officers and even a voting station director. All of them gave me disturbing reports about attempts to distort the election results. They also view the delay in announcing the results as ominous and believe that ballot papers and ballot boxes are being tampered with. One thing is clear, however, in almost all of their messages to me, they emphasized that the delay is a very important sign, indicating the victory of Iraqi nationalist forces over what the Iranian regime is seeking to achieve inside Iraq.
"The widespread fraud which took place during the elections and the delay in announcing the results, not only question the legitimacy of the election but also amount to a plan to drive Iraq into crisis. The United Nations, U.S. and European Union must robustly confront any distortion of the Iraqi people's votes and prevent that country from plunging back into sectarian violence."
Struan Stevenson, MEP
President, Delegation for relations with Iraq
The European Parliament
Rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels.