October 23, 2005

Preliminary Iraqi referendum results

Via Knight-Ridder, I see that the official preliminary totals for the Iraqi constitutional referendum are coming in. While the final results aren't in yet, so far it looks like both Anbar and Salahuddin have overwhelmingly rejected the constitution, Salahuddin by 81%, thereby indicating that the opponents as well as the supporters of the consitution seem to have turned out in large numbers.

Courtesy of reader AMac, the preliminary figures for voter turnout are also available.

The Knight-Ridder piece also gives us an idea of the situation in Diyala:

In the mixed province of Diyala, just northwest of Baghdad, where Sunnis and Shiites are roughly evenly distributed, the "yes" and "no" votes are running almost neck and neck, with 51.76 percent voting "yes" and 48.24 percent "no."

If the Diyala votes hold up, that then leaves Nineveh, whose results are not being announced (along with Irbil, Babil, and Basra) as the deciding factor in whether the constitution is accepted or rejected. We do get some good news from the Electoral Commission, however:

Iraqi election commissioner Safwat Rashid said that no evidence of "significant violations" has so far been uncovered but that the audit is likely to delay the final result at least two more days.

Depending on what he means by this, it would seem that the type of widespread abuses that have been alleged by Saleh Mutlaq didn't occur to the degree that he some of his statements to Western and Arab media outlets would seem to suggest. That's a far cry from what I'd like and even in of itself doesn't preclude the kind of Tammany Hall politics we've experienced here in the United States at various stages in our history, but it does seem to indicate that none of the major Iraqi parties were on an organizational level out to thwart the voting process. Given, as many observers have pointed out, that Iraq doesn't have a terribly long tradition of representative democracy, this should be viewed as a very positive development.

The article also notes another interesting point:

Recent weeks have witnessed reduced insurgent violence targeting the Iraqi population, but there has been no letup in the rate of attacks against U.S. forces.

I actually think that violence has been going down (at least from where it was when the insurgents started mounting attacks in a big way in April) for a longer period than that, particularly with regard to the number as well as the scope of mass casualty terrorist attacks in the country. While these types of terrorist attacks are the most visible symbol of the Iraqi insurgency, they are not the ones that are the most lethal killers of US troops, as this New York Times story on the fighting in Ramadi helps to illustrate:

The vast majority of Americans killed here since September have been victims of homemade bombs, what the military calls improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s. Sgt. William Callahan, a member of the bomb disposal team stationed with the Third Battalion, estimated that troops hit four such bombs a day in Ramadi. Most do not result in death or serious injury. Almost all are remotely detonated, which means someone is hiding in wait for coming vehicles.

There are a couple of ways one can read the partial shift from targeting Iraqi civilians to targeting US troops. One is that most of the mass casualty terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians are perpetrated by Abu Musab Zarqawi and his allies and that they've been sufficiently weakened by US counter-insurgency efforts (as my good friend Bill Roggio has documented in exsquite detail over at the Fourth Rail) to the point where they're still recouping their recent losses. Another is that all of the domestic insurgent groups that committed themselves to the referendum through their various proxies see no real contradiction between killing US troops while trying to pursue a political deal with fellow Iraqis, at least at this time. Finally, there's the view that the insurgents are more or less lying low for now in the belief that the constitution will either be rejected or that enough Sunnis will reject the legitimacy of the vote and throw in with them, hence they don't see a reason to rock the boat right now by staging any mass casualty attacks that might prompt such individuals to throw in with the government.

That said, a drop in violence is still a drop in violence, as is the fact that a lot of Sunnis are now engaged in the political process, even as an opposition force, rather than operating outside of it. As I think Eric has noted in the past, there are definite fault lines between the various insurgent groups, some of which are far more open to political participation than others. For those that are willing to come to the table (and it seems to me that several are there right now by proxy), the effort should now be made to keep them there as long as possible and incorporate them into the system. One such method for doing so that I've discussed with Bill Roggio on occasion is the idea of an Algeria-style amnesty offer for various domestic insurgent groups that are willing to deal. While Iraq now has a sovereign government that will have to weigh the costs and benefits of such a proposal, it would seem a measure at least worth considering at this point.

Posted by at October 23, 2005 08:02 AM | TrackBack (4)
Comments

Are we talking about a real shift in targets all across Iraq or simply a unique local situation--i.e. a town that seems to be all-in for the insurgency and therefore has no "collaborators" to attack?

Posted by: praktike at October 23, 2005 11:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Basically, whether or not there were "significant violations" or not, its what the Sunni Arab population believes that will decide how things go from here. So far, its apparent an overwhelming majority of them voted against the charter but may wind up having it forced upon them by the Shia, Kurds, and foreign troops, at least in their view. That's not a good thing.

My more Machiavellian side says the authorities there should rig things to defeat the charter, giving the Sunnis hope that they can use the political process to further their interests, which would ease the insurgency, but that's highly unlikely. Anyway, it's a long road before we know the effects of a "yes" vote. Not only the December elections when we see if the Sunnis still turnout in numbers, but if the new government, which will still be dominated by Shia and Kurds, will be willing to make any substansive changes to the Constitution as the last minute dealing sort of promised.

As for the apparent drop in attacks, do you know of any statistics to corfirm this? Attacks against US forces has remained basically flat and grown more sophisticated over time and there are some stats to show this, but I've not seen a similar data stream for Iraqis.

It doesn't surprise me that several of the insurgent groups see no contradiction between voting and killing US troops, particularly in this case when they could vote against the government. Most people are smart enough to use various tactics to try and get their way. Voting against the charter wouldn't hurt their cause any, and might even help it to some degree, depending on what precisely they're after. Again, it will be the December elections, when their choices will be less black and white that we'll see if they have actually bought into the process to any great degree.

As for the amnesty offer, its a good idea, but if you have a good memory, you'll know this was proposed by the "sovereign" Iraqi government before and was shot down by the US. It's unlikely to be an easier sell this time around when the Shia and Kurdish forces can use the insurgency as an excuse to consolidate their own power. And its still unlikely the US government is going to support any such measure. After all, to the Bush Admin, they're all terrorists in the same league as Zarqawi and can only be killed and never negotiated with.

Posted by: Northman at October 23, 2005 04:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

praktike:

There seems to be a shift in that violence is down against Iraqi civilians (though that is still taking place as well) but that the tempo of attacks against US forces remains relatively unchanged.

Northman:

As for the apparent drop in attacks, do you know of any statistics to corfirm this? Attacks against US forces has remained basically flat and grown more sophisticated over time and there are some stats to show this, but I've not seen a similar data stream for Iraqis.

If you just look at the number of attacks on Iraqi civilians over the last several months and then compare it to what the situation was last spring you'll find a substantial drop in the number of attacks. There was a similar drop between January and April of 2005 for reasons that are still unclear, at least to me. Attacks on US soldiers have remained the same and grown more sophisticated as the insurgency as drawn on, although the sophistication of the attacks on US troops does not appear to be connected to the frequency of attacks on Iraqi civilians.

As for the amnesty issue, the US acknowledged this summer that there had been at least some kind of negotiations with various insurgent groups, which I assume were connected to the idea that they might lay down their weapons at some point in return for various concessions. Ultimately any amnesty is something the Iraqi government will have to decide, but it seems the US is not completely opposed to the idea, at least with respect to domestic insurgent groups.

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 23, 2005 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there any real way of finding out if Safwat Rashid is telling the truth or not? Any international observing of the election that wasn't done from Amman? Given the performance of the interim government and its dominance by Kurdish and Shia partisans of the constitution, why should we trust it to count the votes accurately, or find major instances of fraud?

Posted by: ckrisz at October 24, 2005 10:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there any real way of finding out if Safwat Rashid is telling the truth or not? Any international observing of the election that wasn't done from Amman? Given the performance of the interim government and its dominance by Kurdish and Shia partisans of the constitution, why should we trust it to count the votes accurately, or find major instances of fraud?

Posted by: ckrisz at October 24, 2005 10:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there any real way of finding out if Safwat Rashid is telling the truth or not? Any international observing of the election that wasn't done from Amman? Given the performance of the interim government and its dominance by Kurdish and Shia partisans of the constitution, why should we trust it to count the votes accurately, or find major instances of fraud?

Posted by: ckrisz at October 24, 2005 10:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ack! Sorry for the repeated comments.

Posted by: ckrisz at October 24, 2005 10:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On a technical note, repeated posts seem to be a recurrent problem with the MovableType 3.121 software. I started noticing them this summer; they show up more frequently on posts that have taken a long time (i.e. greater than 10-15 minutes) to write. As a rule, if you get an error message, your comments have still been posted -- you don't need to post them again. Leave the Belgravia site and come back to it later to make sure. When I've had longer comments to submit, though, I've taken to backing them up, just in case.

On a substantive note: I may be getting the wrong impression from news reports, but in terms of coalition fatalities the insurgency's "increasing sophisitcation" is evident in just one area -- the design, power, and control of IEDs. In other respects they may have become better disciplined, thus better able to limit their own casualties and harass American troops without exposing themselves to direct confrontations with American firepower. In other words, the improving tradecraft of the insurgents may be making life more difficult for our guys, but it's only with respect to IEDs that it is making life much more dangerous.

Posted by: JEB at October 24, 2005 03:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Iraqi election commissioner Safwat Rashid said that no evidence of "significant violations" has so far been uncovered but that the audit is likely to delay the final result at least two more days."

Ah yes. As the great Eddie Murphy once said, "Are you going to believe me, or your own lying eyes?"

Let's again look at the numbers for Niveneh. this is pulled straght from Back to Iraq.

"# In the January election, which was boycotted by Sunnis, there were 165,934 votes cast, according to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

In October, according to AP’s preliminary results, there were 419,804 votes cast in Ninevah, an increase of 253,870 votes, or +152.99 percent.

The number of people voting for the constitution in Ninevah, according to the AP, was 326,774 (78 percent), with 90,065 voting against it (21 percent). Less than 1 percent, or 2,965 votes, was disqualified.

By way of comparison, Tamim province, home to the disputed city of Kirkuk, saw 542,000 votes cast — an increase of 35.2 percent over January — with 341,611 voting “yes” (63 percent) and 195,725 voting “no” (36 percent). You mean we’re supposed to believe that in Tamim, which is also a mixed province but which has had a steady stream of Kurds moving in for the last two-and-a-half years, had more than twice as many no votes as Ninevah? And with the Kurds already pretty much owning Kirkuk? Color me skeptical.

What’s truly eyebrow-raising is that the number of constitutional “yes” votes — 326,774 — is more than the total increase in votes over January’s turnout. That suggests that not only did all of the Sunnis in Ninevah province, who largely boycotted the January elections turn out, but that they all voted for the constitution. That’s a very strange idea to me, as I’ve not met a single Sunni who voted for it here in Baghdad."


Last time you posted about this, you gave a variation on "Let's wait and see". Now, because of the statement of Safwat Rashid, you are ready to state "it would seem that the type of widespread abuses that have been alleged by Saleh Mutlaq didn't occur to the degree that some of his statements to Western and Arab media outlets would seem to suggest".

I think it would be importat to mention that Safwat Rashid is a Kurd, not a Sunni, correct?


Posted by: JC at October 24, 2005 05:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Ultimately any amnesty is something the Iraqi government will have to decide"

If by ultimately, you mean in the (hopefully not too) distant future when the Iraqis are in charge of the military forces in their country, then I'd agree. However, as long as the US is in charge of security and fighting the insurgents, they're going to have considerable say over letting the guys they're fighting off the hook. I can't say what the balance between the two is on this issue, but both will have to be on board for it to work.

In regards to the negotiations between the US forces and Iraqi insurgents, it is unclear just what was being offered, but by the reaction in Washington, it seems clear the administration is not terribly supportive of the idea. If such a plan is to work, it will have to come from the top, or at least be supported and encouraged by it. Local commanders actions will only give a temporary fix, which can vanish with the next troop rotation or actions in the neighbouring command. It has to be nation-wide to have any chance of working.

JEB

The insurgents have made other tactical changes besides moving to greater use of IED's, which themselves are a response to US airstrikes. (It's hard to call an airstrike against a roadside bomb, compared to an ambushing force.) Another example has been allowing an initial attack on the US forces to provoke a predictable response, then having a prepared counter or series of counters for that response and subsequent ones. And even just minimizing their own casualties means they don't have to recruit as aggressively and that the fighters facing the US forces are more experienced and battle-hardened, which makes them more dangerous.

Posted by: Northman at October 24, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ckrisz:

"Is there any real way of finding out if Safwat Rashid is telling the truth or not? Any international observing of the election that wasn't done from Amman? Given the performance of the interim government and its dominance by Kurdish and Shia partisans of the constitution, why should we trust it to count the votes accurately, or find major instances of fraud?"

If the Kurds and the Shi'ites wanted to rig the vote and then call it a day, they could have easily already done so. The fact that they haven't and have even gone as far as auditing the vote (an ongoing process in 4 provinces) when complaints were raised rather than simply declaring victory and moving on suggests that if there is a plan to steal the referendum, everybody isn't in on it. As for the international observers, as of yet they haven't weighed in, probably because the results haven't been announced yet, so when they do we should be able to learn more about their methodology here.

JC:

You're using the results of the January election as a standard from which to judge the constitutional referendum. Given the ever-changing dynamics in Iraqi politics since January and our own inability to come up with any meaningful metrics to gauge how much support the various factions have, I am exceedingly dubious about such methodology - and note that this a separate issue altogether from whether or not abuses have occurred in the referendum voting.

I was unaware of Rashid's ethnicity, as he was simply identified as the head of the Electoral Commission in media reports.

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 24, 2005 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan,

Even though Niveneh (or Ninawa, depending) is in the North, it is generally considered a Sunni province. This is, to a degree, borne out by the numbers of casualties. 150 in Ninawa, third by province, in terms of greater number of US soldier deaths.

In addition, we all remember the battle for Mosul last year.

So I think we can confirm that the Sunni population is well established in Niveneh. In the Time article by Allbright, there is this quote - "Nineveh is generally considered a majority Sunni province, and Mosul was the hometown of many of Iraq's generals and other officers before the 2003 invasion."


Again, the numbers speak for themselves, even if you keep saying "don't believe your lying eyes".

I will also note that your objection is an obfuscation. You would say "Given the ever-changing dynamics in Iraqi politics since January and our own inability to come up with any meaningful metrics to gauge how much support the various factions have, I am exceedingly dubious about such methodology".

Come up with a better one then. What do you got?

There's a simple math problem here. You would do your reputation well as an honest analyst if you would acknowledge this.

Posted by: JC at October 24, 2005 08:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Iraqi election commissioner Safwat Rashid said that no evidence of "significant violations" has so far been uncovered."

Is it still true that they are only doing a careful audit of those provinces where more that 90% voted yes? Does this make any sense at all? After all, the fraud wouldn't have happened in the provinces where victory was a foregone conclusion, where a very high percentage were voting in favor of the constitution. Fraud would only be meaningful in tightly contested provinces (unless it was on such a huge scale as to be obvious to everyone). The initial declaration that the electoral commission would carefully audit those provinces where the vote was more than 90% one way seems to me to be a guarantee that they will not look for any potential real fraud, just do a pro-forma investigation.

Posted by: Bill at October 24, 2005 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JC:

I'm not disputing the ethnic make-up of Nineveh province.

As I understand it, your argument is basically as follows:

1. There were only 165,934 votes cast in Nineveh during the January election.

2. There were 419,804 votes cast in Nineveh this time around, with the preliminary election results being that 78% of those who voted were in favor of the constitution and only 21% against it.

3. This does not seem to add up with the fact that other provinces (Tamim is used as an example) only voted 63% in favor of the constitution.

And I'll reply here again, though if you're going to continue to accuse me of arguing in bad faith there isn't much purpose in continuing this conversation.

1. I accept the Mosul vote totals for the January election, but I think that it's a definite overstatement to say that all Sunnis consciously boycotted the January elections, as it ignores the fact that a lot of them were successfully intimidated against voting for fear of the insurgency. That tracks with various articles all through the winter of last year claiming that the insurgents were trying to set up a base in Mosul after being driven from Fallujah and is one of the reasons why I don't think that you can hold up the Nineveh voting totals in January as a standard from which to judge the province now.

2. The same vein, the situation in both Mosul and Nineveh proper has improved dramatically since January to the point that US commanders are now claiming that they've routed the insurgency in northern Iraq. That would seem to remove the intimidation factor if nothing else.

3. I agree that the Nineveh figures are sufficiently worthy of investigation (as do the Iraqis), but I don't think that you can use that as a foundation from which to draw the kind of conclusions you seem to be, especially given that the official totals have yet to be announced. For instance, al-Hayat reported over 600,000 votes were cast in Nineveh while the AP says just over 400,000. This is one of the reasons for my "wait and see" approach in the earlier post, to which all I added was that the Electoral Commission doesn't believe that there were any significant violations that occurred. Once the final results are announced together with the findings of the international observers, then I think you'll be in a far better position to draw conclusions.

Bill:

The provinces the Commission is auditing are Nineveh, Irbil, Babil, and Basra. Of the four, Nineveh is by far the most important is far as the passage of the constitution is concerned and as a result is likely to be the one coming under the most scrutiny. As somebody noted in one of the other threads, the results in the other three provinces, while important, are not likely to affect the final results.

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 25, 2005 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

final results for Nineveh

Nos 55%. Not enough to kill the constitution, but not out of line with what we know about the province, is it?

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 25, 2005 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well good - I'm glad the numbers are more in line with what makes sense.

Again, my whole objection was based on the preliminary percentages reported by the AP (78% voted yes, 21% voted no), and those ended up not being correct. And THAT was the conditional my objection was based on.

These numbers are much more in line with what we know of Niveneh's population.

Posted by: JC at October 25, 2005 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Again, my whole objection was based on the preliminary percentages reported by the AP (78% voted yes, 21% voted no), and those ended up not being correct. And THAT was the conditional my objection was based on. "


I will still pay attention to the AP. After all, they did tell us the data was preliminary.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 25, 2005 04:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Martha Raddatz on Washington Week:

http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/transcripts/transcript051021.html

"There were so many people out voting. I was in a Sunni neighborhood, and to see these people streaming into this neighborhood to vote for the first time--I was in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood of the infamous prison, but it's a Sunni-dominated area--you had people there never before voted, coming forward, holding up the finger proudly and all saying, `No, no, no, we didn't vote for the constitution.' What's hard here, however, is we still do not know the definitive results. It was supposed to be out in a couple of days, but there are some irregularities and I can tell you right now I witnessed them. When we went into the polling places--and it was interesting, the first polling place wouldn't let cameras in. The second one was, `Come on in, come on in.' I thought, `This'll change under democracy. We'll come back in four years. This'll never happen again.' We were behind the voting booth. My cameraman was back there and there was a man who took seven ballots, at least, because we have it on camera and marked yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes...

IFILL: One guy?

Ms. RADDATZ: One guy and he wasn't the only one. And as my cameraman pointed out, we were only in there 20 minutes and we saw a variety of people...

Ms. GLORIA BORGER (CBS News; US News & World Report): He was from Chicago.

Ms. RADDATZ: Anyway--that's what we all said. Chicago, there we go.

Mr. RICHARD KEIL (Bloomberg News): County. Right.

Ms. RADDATZ: Yeah. And folded up those ballots and handed them to the man who was taking the ballots and he happily stuffed them in there. But...

IFILL: First, I want to apologize the viewers in Chicago, but go ahead.

Ms. RADDATZ: Gloria doesn't, but you go ahead.

Ms. BORGER: I do.

Mr. KEIL: But Patrick Fitzgerald is there so...

IFILL: Yeah, so who's responsible?

Ms. RADDATZ: That's right. So those kind of irregularities and there were some neighborhoods where, I believe, up in Irbil or somewhere up north there was 99 percent voted yes. When you get over 90 percent, you start thinking something might be up. So that's going to take a while. And the hard part here as well is once the election commission comes out and says, `This is how it was. There were or were not irregularities,' whether that sticks with the populations--again, especially the Sunnis and the Sunni Arabs have been largely responsible for the insurgency and felt this disaffected by this--if it passes, there are these irregularities, they see our film, that's going to be trouble."

Posted by: Ckrisz at October 26, 2005 01:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If the Kurds and the Shi'ites wanted to rig the vote and then call it a day, they could have easily already done so. The fact that they haven't and have even gone as far as auditing the vote (an ongoing process in 4 provinces) when complaints were raised rather than simply declaring victory and moving on suggests that if there is a plan to steal the referendum, everybody isn't in on it. As for the international observers, as of yet they haven't weighed in, probably because the results haven't been announced yet, so when they do we should be able to learn more about their methodology here."

There are no international observers actually in Iraq. They're all camped out in Jordan. How you effectively observe an election from another country, without people at polls as the vote takes place and escorting ballot boxes from collection point to counting station, I have no idea. I don't think it's possible. Like last time, these folks are simply there to give the thumbs-up no matter what the hell happened.

Maybe the Electoral Commission is straight. Maybe it's bent. I don't know and neither do you. Without international observers, no one really does, and that's the damn problem.

Posted by: ckrisz at October 26, 2005 02:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

if the Sunni Arabs want international observers present, theyre going to need to stop supporting the insurgency, since its insurgent violence that keeps the observers out.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 26, 2005 05:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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