|Wikileaks:||View 05BAGHDAD4271 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PNAT PGOV PTER KDEM IZ Elections Parliament|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 004271 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2015 TAGS: PNAT, PGOV, PTER, KDEM, IZ, Elections, Parliament SUBJECT: IRAQI ELECTION COMMISSION DELAYS ANNOUNCEMENT OF REFERENDUM RESULT REF: BAGHDAD 4268 Classified By: DCM David Satterfield for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 1. (C) SUMMARY. UN Special Representative (SRSG) Qazi told P5 Chiefs of Mission late October 17 that the announcement of the constitution referendum results would be delayed while the Iraqi election commission investigates potential irregularities. Preliminary information from IECI field offices revealed that 12 governorates showed a 90 percent or more vote for one side or the other in the referendum. In the end there may be no abuses involved, Qazi cautioned. However, the election commission is suspicious of such high percentage results and is launching an investigation that may take at least two or three days before preliminary results can be determined. We made the point that a delay of a couple days will not be particularly problematic, but if it lasts longer it could cause problems for the tight election calendar. The IECI in that case should be prepared to give preliminary results while conditioning the public that these results might change. We also stressed that the investigation must be conducted in a manner that preserves the credibility and transparency of the IECI. The departure of UN/EAD Perelli before the final referendum results are announced could be problematic since the vote count could be contentious and the Iraqi election commission may well need UN technical expertise and support more than ever up to the time the results are announced. END SUMMARY. 2. (C) In a short minute meeting called by UNAMI on October 17, UN SRSG Ashraf Qazi briefed the Ambassador and other P5 Chiefs of Mission on fast-developing details regarding potential widespread fraud in the October 15 referendum. Qazi stated that UN/EAD and current International Commissioner to the Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI), Carina Perelli, revealed that returns indicate a 90 percent vote in favor of one side or the other in 12 of the 18 governorates. These lop-sided returns have raised suspicions among the IECI Board. 3. (C) Qazi explained that the IECI in Baghdad received this information from their respective Governorate Electoral Offices (GEO) after each GEO submitted their field counts of all the Form 98 total they received from the field (Note: Each polling station uses the Form 98 to capture the results of the hand count prior to sealing the ballots in the respective ballot box. End note.) Due to the extraordinarily high vote totals in favor of one side or the other in the majority of the governorates, Perelli and the IECI commissioners agreed to immediately conduct an investigation to evaluate the accuracy of the GEO reporting and to determine if there is any evidence of fraud. 4. (C) The IECI will first conduct a review of all copies of the Form 98 in each impacted governorate, followed by an inventory of sample ballot boxes currently held in secure storage under GEO control. This will require the IECI to ship the sample boxes to the Baghdad IECI headquarters. After this sample survey, the Board of Commissioners will make an initial assessment about the extent of possible fraud. If the IECI determines there is no serious fraud, then it will go forward in announcing preliminary results. UN Election Team lawyer Jose Maria Aranaz noted that there were 170,000 observers during the referendum process and so far no serious charges of abuses. 5. (C) The IECI intends to issue a press release about the delay of results. The Ambassador, along with UK Ambassador Patey, urged Qazi to recommend to the election commission that it issue preliminary results of the referendum as soon as practicable. Qazi resisted, but post will press that the Iraqi public be kept apprised of any developments in a fully transparent manner. Qazi does not expect preliminary results for a couple of days as the investigation has been slowed due to a sandstorm that temporarily halted the air shipment of the Form 98 copies to the IECI Baghdad Tally Center. 6. (C) COMMENT: Qazi himself admitted that there may be no fraud at all; it may be no more than a "storm in a teacup," he observed. We understand from another source close to the election commission that nearly all of the 12 governorates in question recorded enormous "yes" vote counts. As we have reported, there is already considerable media speculation in Iraq about the results (see ref). Thus, election commission acknowledgement of potential fraud will only raise public interest further. The IECI handled only with difficulty the allegations of fraud in the January 2005 elections. It will likely be similarly challenged this time. Therefore, the departure of UN election advisory team leader Perelli before the announcement of the final results would be problematic. Khalilzad
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