Iraq voter turnout lowered

Election reports from Baghdad indicate that voter turnout was particularly low in the capital, while Iraq's poll panel has backtracked on its claim that 72% of all registered voters cast their ballots.

    Election commission: Initial tally of 72% was just an estimate

    Iraqi journalist Ziyad al-Samarrai told Aljazeera on Monday that voter turnout in Baghdad was poor, especially in the al-Yarmuk, al-Amiriya, and al-Adhamiya districts - the main population centres in central and western Baghdad.

    The Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI) said on Sunday its initial tally of 72% had been little more than a guess based on local estimates.

    The panel has since revised the estimated turnout at 60% to 75%.

    Boycott's reasons

    Al-Samarrai reported that political beliefs, rather than security factors, were the reasons behind Iraqis' boycott of the elections.

    Iraqis were killed in a blast that
    targeted Australia's embassy

    Most citizens interviewed by the journalist said the elections reflected nothing but the will of the United States and was for its own interests.

    The Iraqi journalist also said the security situation in Iraq was deteriorating. He reported that c

    lashes erupted on Monday morning between fighters and US forces in Baghdad while US helicopters hovered over the city.

    US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed in the city's streets, he added.

    Protests in north

    In other developments, Aljazeera has learned that demonstrations have swept Christian and Kurdish villages in northern Iraq's Shaikhan district in protest against the inability of voters to cast their ballots in Sunday's election.

    "Because of the exceptional circumstances, the turnout [in the Sunni governorates] was
    not high"

    Harith Muhammad Hasan, election commission deputy chief

    The protesters accused the parties concerned of failing to deliver ballot boxes to the polling stations in the area.

    Furthermore, Dawud Baghistani, supervisor of  the Kurdish candidates' list in Singar district, has accused interim President Ghazi al-Yawir of using his powers to transfer a number of ballot boxes in Singar, near Mosul, to another village in the region controlled by his cousin.

    Baghistani said the transfer of the ballot boxes provided al-Yawir with about 9000 extra votes and deprived hundreds of Shaikhan residents of the chance to exercise their voting rights.

    No final number

    Earlier on Monday, Iraq's election commission said a final figure for turnout will take some days to determine.

    Nevertheless, Harith Muhammad Hasan, deputy chief of IECI, said a majority of voters took part in the election in most provinces.

    "We still don't have a final number but we can say it was better than expected," Hasan said.

    The security situation remains
    tense one day after the polls

    "The reports from the provinces are very good. In most of the
    provinces a majority of voters came out."

    Referring to the Sunni governorates, he said that
    "because of the exceptional circumstances, the turnout was not high".

    Baghdad and the governorate of Salah al-Din, Anbar, Ninava and Diyala are where Sunni opposition to the election was concentrated.

    Hasan said the vote in Ninava, which saw much anti-US fighting in recent days, was better than Anbar, where the volatile towns of Ramadi and Falluja are located.

    Marine killed

    In a separate incident, a US marine was killed in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province, the US military said on Monday.

    The marine, assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed while troops conducted security operations on Sunday.

    The statement did not say exactly where he was killed.

    Heavy security was not enough
    to persuade all Iraqis to vote

    In other developments, Australia has abandoned its Baghdad embassy and shifted diplomatic staff to a US military base after a car bomb attack on the embassy compound on 19 January, Canberra said on Monday.

    Relocation awaited

    Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Camp Victory would be a temporary home while the Australian mission awaited relocation to a permanent embassy inside the heavily fortified Green Zone international sector of Baghdad.

    Camp Victory, a major US facility close to Baghdad International Airport and the headquarters of both the US and Australian military, will accommodate ambassador Howard Brown and his two staff members for up to six months, Downer said.

    Two Iraqis were killed and two Australian soldiers slightly
    injured in the 19 January attack in which a car bomb exploded
    outside the embassy's concrete blast barriers and alongside the Australian soldiers' accommodation.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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