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Cablegate: Despite Minor Hiccups, Successful Election in the South

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: December 15 elections in Basrah and the other
three southern provinces generally ran smoothly and without many
signs of significant fraud or security incidents. Basrah
Regional Embassy Office (REO) Iraqi Provincial Action Officers
(IPAOs) visited three polling centers in the morning and
afternoon in Basrah city. Basrawis interviewed at polling
stations in the city proclaimed the day a success and spoke
optimistically about the future. Voting irregularities in the
southern provinces included Iraqi police campaigning for the
Unified Iraqi Alliance (List 555) and attempting to influence
voting in Basrah, Maysan, and Muthanna provinces.
"Family-style" voting, where a head of family accompanied family
members behind the voting booths and voted for them, occurred
throughout Basrah. Polling center managers were inconsistent
in their handling of cases involving unregistered voters. The
violence of December 14 in Nasiriyah, where the headquarters of
Ayid Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party and the Communist
Party were attacked and burned, was not repeated on election
day, although anger simmered among the predominantly Shia
population concerning Al Jazeera's alleged slight against
Ayatollah Sistani. End Summary.

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Security, Stability, and Peace

2. Voting in Basrah, Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Muthanna provinces
ran smoothly on December 15 with isolated irregularities and no
reported signs of significant fraud, security incidents, or
technical problems. Polling stations opened and closed on time
in all four provinces. REO Basrah IPAOs visited three different
polling stations in Basrah in the morning and again in the
afternoon. A festive atmosphere reigned within some polling
centers, with blue and white ribbons from the Independent
Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) cut into banners and
festooning the ceilings. Voters, dressed in holiday clothes,
socialized in the corridors of the polling centers. Many voters
spoke freely to IPAOs about their opinions of the election and
for whom they had voted. One voter, when asked why he thought
the elections were important to his family, answered, "For
stability and security, to get rid of the terrorists and to
build a free, independent Iraq." Registration and voting
procedures went smoothly, and in several stations handicapped
individuals in wheelchairs and on crutches were assisted into
the polling centers in Basrah and Umm Qasr. Outside, traffic
restrictions wiped the roads clear of cars, and groups of small
children played in the streets.

Iraqi Police Involved in Irregularities

3. Although generally calm, IPAOs observed some irregularities
at polling stations in Basrah. At one Basrah polling station,
an Iraqi man told the IPAO that an Iraqi police car parked
outside the polling station had been blaring "Vote for 555" up
until their convoy arrived on scene. The loudspeaker was
abruptly shut off when the international observers appeared.
The editor of Al Samawah newspaper in Muthanna province reported
that he had seen police putting up posters of "555" and Sadr in
the city. A reporter from Al Hurra news in Maysan reported to
the REO that Iraqi police trucks were blaring directives to vote
for 555 from their loudspeakers. REO Basrah received a report
from a Danish non-governmental organization (NGO) worker of a
disturbance at a polling station in Basrah (No. 927007) around
12:30 that resulted in the center being emptied out for about
10-15 minutes by Iraqi police. The Basrah IECI Director Hazim
Joda explained that the center was closed so that the police
could arrest three intoxicated individuals.

Elections "Family-Style"

4. Another IPAO observed "family-style" voting inside two other
polling stations. Male heads-of-household escorted one or more
family members behind a voting booth and either pointed out
which candidate to vote for or blatantly completed all the forms
himself while IECI personnel watched passively. After observing
a husband filling out his wife's ballot for her, the IPAO asked
the IECI polling station manager why this was allowed.
"Illiterate family members are permitted to have another family
member assist them in voting," was the IECI official's answer.
After the couple had finished voting, the IPAO drew the wife
aside and asked if she had trouble reading the ballot. "Not at
all. It was very clear and perfectly legible," was the answer.
The IECI official simply shrugged.

Unregistered Voters Try Their Luck at Different Polling Stations

5. Reports from observers in Basrah indicate that there was no
unified policy being applied by IECI polling center managers to
instances involving voters who do not appear on registration
lists and who wish to vote. One observer estimated that about
1,000 individuals in Basrah wished to vote but did not appear on
registration lists and did not know where to go to seek help. A
Danish NGO observer reported that in at least one case an
unregistered voter turned away at one polling center finagled
being allowed to vote elsewhere. Some center managers in Basrah
instructed unregistered voters to go to a "special" polling
center along with proof of identity and citizenship where they
could vote. Other reports indicated that some unregistered
voters are simply turned away with no guidance.

Al Jazeera Remarks on Sistani Spark Anger

6. A December 14 Al Jazeera report was thought by many to have
made disparaging remarks about Ayatollah Sistani, resulting in
angry crowds attacking and destroying Allawi's headquarters and
the Communist Party headquarters in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, that
same day. On December 15, voters continued to express anger and
displeasure about Al Jazeera's remarks, but no further violence
was reported. In Maysan province, groups of protesters chanting
support for 555 and against Al Jazeera were reported outside of
some polling centers, but voters were otherwise left alone.

Demonstrations, Rallies and Irregularities

7. A demonstration outside a polling center in Basrah was
reported by a Danish NGO observer, who said that the station's
IECI manager appeared to be attempting to calm the situation
down. At another Basrah polling station, an observer reported
that voters were being intimidated by 555 supporters outside the
center and directed to vote for 555. The polling center manager
made no effort to stop this activity. In Az Zubair, a rally of
150 people against the 555 coalition was reported by another NGO
worker. Party activists handing out flyers for 555 were noted
inside one polling station. The polling station manager
reportedly removed the activists.

Short Lines, Long Distances

8. Wait time to vote varied. In most Basrah stations, there
was either no or a minimal wait, while in Muthanna province
lines of up to 100 people were reported. Even these long lines
were moving along smoothly, however, and voters used the
occasion to socialize. In a Sunni area of Basrah, some people
stated that they had to walk long distances to reach the polling
centers, while in others, individuals who had managed to secure
vehicle passes reportedly gave rides to people who needed to get
to their voting stations. Al Hurra television reported that 400
employees in the North Alrymella oil field were unable to vote
because they could not travel to the polling stations where they
were registered because of IECI travel restrictions and because
they had not been granted permission from the Baghdad IECI to
vote at the nearest polling center.

Observers and Media

9. Observers were present in many of the polling stations.
Most observers were from the NGO "EIN," although observers
representing Da'awa, Fadillah, the Unified Iraqi Alliance, Sunni
parties, and the Artists' Union also were noted. Al Iraqiya
radio and TV were present and observed the voting in several
stations. Al Arabiya TV broadcast interviews with Basrah
Governor Mohammed Wa'eli, who encouraged voters to vote for the
Fadillah party. The Basrah Chief of Police General Hassan
Sewadi and the Basrah IECI Director also were interviewed and
expressed their pleasure at how the vote was progressing.


10. A high level of police presence was observed throughout the
provinces and in Basrah in particular. Around 10 Iraqi police
manned each polling center, with more police on the roads at
major intersections. Police cars in Basrah were nearly the only
moving vehicles in town. All adults entering polling centers
were searched by Iraqi police. No one was allowed to enter
polling centers with cell phones or cameras. A table was set up
outside centers where people could check their cell phones and
cameras and pick them up when finished. Men and women were
searched separately but voted in common areas.


11. Basrah TDY PAO collected polling data from a local media
NGO. AFAQ reported collecting 881 responses from Basrah
province, including Khor Al-Zubair, Al-Fao and Umm Qasr. The
data should not be considered scientific, but rather a version
of anecdotal reporting. Reported data included: 43.81 percent
of the respondents voted for the 555 list, with 21.11 percent
for 731. The poll reported that 49.04 percent indicated that
'family values or morals' were the most important issues
affecting their vote, with 34.39 percent indicating 'security.'
When asked what the most important personal issue was affecting
their vote, 56.98% indicated 'religious values'. Of the
responses, 58.91 percent came from men and 41.09 percent from
women. Only 15 percent of the responses came from college
educated individuals. More extensive poll data from AFAQ on
Maysan, Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces, as well as Al-Manarah
Newspaper and Radio Shinasheel, is being processed and will be
reported septel.

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