Sophia's Peace Work

Friday, December 16, 2005

Observing the Iraqi Elections from Jordan

As an election observer, I was at three polling centers, one in a well-to-do part of town (Swefieh), one at a police training academy outside of the city where there were 3000 new Iraqi police trainees voting ... but I spent the most time at the Jabel Al Hussain center which is closed to the downtown area and also to where I live. My impression was that the Iraqis who came to this station were of, perhaps, more modest means.

Today I just finished with observing the counting. After almost a two hour delay in which, out of boredom, the election workers started decorating their stations with the ribbon that they had been provided with to keep observers back from the counting table, the counting finally started. It seemed to go well, as did the voting of the previous days ... atleast in my stations. There was one altercation with an observer from a political party who was asked to leave the station because he was being too loud on his cell phone, afterwhich there was alot of pushing and shoving and raising of voices. Otherwise people were pretty much behaving themselves but you could see that emotions were running high.

Ayad Allawi's party (and the personal favorite of the Americans) won in my station, followed by 555 (the ruling religious party) and then 618 (Iraqi Accordance Front ... the Sunni group). In other stations 555 was ahead, but 731 (Allawi) was always pretty close behind and 618 always seemed to be third.

The real fireworks started at the end of the counting. I was, I think, the only independent observer at my polling station, the rest were party observers and at the end they made a big stink about the decision to reject or accept ballots.

In my station, if a voter checked a box but the end of their mark went into another box, the supervisor would reject the ballot. Upstairs in the other stations (there were 10 stations at my polling center), they were accepting these ballots. It apparently is up to the supervisor and their team and they just need to be consistant about it. But because of the difference on this issue between stations, the party observers went crazy about it. There certainly was alot of screaming and yelling, but in the end it was really only a handful of ballots.

One thing I didn't see (because I was inside at the time) but my journalist friend saw when he came to the station during the voting was that the Jordanians were detaining a bunch of young Iraqi men. When he tried to find out what they were doing, the Jordanians tried to shoo him away and just said that they were trying to vote twice. David thought it more likely that the Jordanians were using the voting as a way to screen Iraqis who had overstayed their visas in the country.

Hmmm, do you suppose that whoever is holding our friends, the CPTers, will release them once the elections are over? It's nerve-wracking that there has been no news.

Anyway, here are some photos from the Police training center and the Sweifieh Polling Center (my camera battery ran out on me after that).

"Yeah, we're voting!" ... well words to that effect. The woman is holding a signed that says "Iraq" in English & Arabic.

Sweifieh Polling Center

Police Training Center


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