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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iraqi Election Round-Up: The Final Posts

We have witnessed a historic day. Not only is it the day the Iraqis took their future by the reins, but the bloggers took this day to the media by reporting it far better than they did, with accurate, up-to-date posts. These are the last ones leading up to the close of the polls, and a wrap-up post. (All emphasis in the posts are mine, not the reporters.)

IS for Pajamas Media at 7:00 a.m. (Kerbala):
People rushed to the polling centers in Karbala since early morning and the first person who voted was a 53-year old woman who sells dairy products on a sidewalk. She said: "I had to come early to be able to go back to my work I need to sell all this stuff you see" and she was referring to a tray full of cream and cheese she was holding.

Another citizen came early and explained why he did so by saying: "I have a work shift in the hospital to catch up with… I’m a medical assistant".

Voters’ turnout began to increase after 9 am and in a simple survey I made among a number of them I found out that the competition is going on between two major lists the United Alliance, Allawi and a third, smaller one called al-wala' Islamic party.

And in a previous meeting with an IECI official in Karbala he stated that the number of polling stations is 211 and they are ready to host 409,000 voters.

And an update from IS after an interview with election officials, also at 7:00 a.m.
An interview with the IECI staff:

The manager of one of the polling centers talked about his staff and said: "we have 34 people working with us; employees, supervisors and inspectors…" and answering my question about the representatives of the political bodies who want to monitor the process he replied: "we have only five stations in the center and each station can hold only four monitors so we had to make the monitors take turns on watching and monitoring"

Then he added "the voters this year are more aware of the process and some of them gave written notes to us about the violations they think have taken place in the center.

And in an interview, one of the representatives of one of the political bodies mentioned that the staff of the IECI was very cooperative with the representatives and the voters and that there were no violations in this particular center.

WZ for Pajamas Media at 7:00 a.m. (Erbil):
In a celebratory mood the voting process continues in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan. The people still flocking to the polling centers eagerly willing to vote and feeling extremely happy with the purple finger they get after voting, calling it the ink of freedom and democracy; they felt very safe because of the security measures were taken by the security forces to secure the elections.

Many of the voters showed a good awareness by stating how important it is to participate in this elections because it will be they key factor to stability in the future Iraq and they hoped that the Kurdish Alliance will get a good number of seats in the coming parliament; they trust the Kurdish leadership for not being "neither religious nor sectarian".

We met one of the officials in charge in one of the polling stations and asked him few questions about the voting process:

Q: How was your day in the polling center?
A: It was really a distinguished day and we worked on setting order and providing security needed.

Q: How is the turnout in your station?
A: As you can see the turnout is very high, and from what I hear from the voters themselves most votes went to the Kurdish Alliance.

Q: Did you face any problems or violations?
A: Until now the process is going very smooth and the supervisors are doing their job very well in helping and guiding the people during the process.

Outside the station groups of young men and women were celebrating this big day turning it to a big festival hoping for a better tomorrow and a government that will eliminate all the obstacles preventing the country from progressing and having a better future.

AS for Pajamas Media at 7:25 a.m. (Najaf):
[The delay in this report is due to reporter's difficulty to find available internet access]

From the early hours of this morning thousands of Najafis walked down the streets heading to the polls in a true carnival of practicing our democratic right.

We toured 10 polling centers and made a number of interviews with some of the voters in those polling centers.

Mr. Ali Hassoon al-Badri said “everyone must realize that electing our representatives is a basic right for everyone and it is not a gift from anyone and that it draws the line between freedom and tyranny…”

Mr. Haider Noor said “I believe we can’t afford to lose the right of voting and that’s why I came here today…”

We stopped by the Najaf office of the IECI to talk to Mrs. Bushra al-Zamili who told us about their preparations and the progress of the election process:

“we tried our best to make this election succeed and I tell you that our techniques in counting and sorting out the ballots are better and more advanced this time…in Najaf we have 529,890 eligible voters who are casting their ballots in 254 centers. Until this moment we have not received any report on fraud or violations except for some parties manipulating the names on the badges we gave them but nothing major in general…”

We have also conducted a little survey near one of the polling centers; we distributed 70 forms and asked 70 voters to fill them out. Our questions were:

Who did you vote for? The results were:
6 for the UIA, 14 for Allawi, 8 for list #541 and one vote for each of the lists 696 and 835.

What made you vote for this list? The answers were:

47 for “they can improve security”, 11 for “ending the presence of foreign troops”, 6 for “social and religious values” and 6 for “improving security and reconstruction”.

What is the biggest problem facing Iraqis?
Almost all the answers mentioned security concerns.

What affected your vote?
The answers included personal opinion and religious beliefs.\

70 people participated in the survey (46 males and 24 females) and their ages ranged from 18 to 75 and their education ranged from elementary school to master degrees.

NR for Pajamas Media at 8:15 a.m. (Mosul):
The governor of Mosul, Mr. Draid Kashmola, visited polling stations in the province, and in talking with some of the people he emphasized participating in this process. He said voting should not be based on sectarian or ethnic affiliations that didn’t present anything to the Iraqi people during the previous period. He added that all the Iraqis are in "one boat" and they all have a common future. He went on with his speech by criticizing those who doubted our security forces' ability to keep the stations safe from the terrorists.

On the other hand the representatives of some of the political bodies expressed their concerns about the fraud that might happen during counting votes since they were not able to see any of the supervisors. They sent an emergency call to the NGOs working in Mosul to take part in this stage to make sure that the voting process will remain fraud-free.One of the candidates on list #829 (in Iraq, "lists" signify the groups or alliances running for office) stated that he suspects that fraud had taken place in Mosul’s suburbs and added that he prefers not to talk about it now. Other people mentioned that elections in Mosul were clean and no fraud took place inside Mosul -- but they still think it is not impossible to happen.

Though it's only minutes away from closing the boxes, there are still substantial numbers of people coming to the stations. This success is due to calls made by some clerics in Mosul urging the people to vote. One of the managers said that since no attacks happened in Mosul, families should participate in a large way.

The IECI -- the Independent Electorial Commission of Iraq, which is supervising the elections -- called for the media, the voting supervisors, and the representatives of the political bodies to stay for the counting of votes. Mosul's police command declared that they will provide cars to transport the people who live far from the polling stations. The gesture was highly appreciated by many of the people who used this service.

Mohammed of Iraq The Model for Pajamas Media at 8:50 a.m. (Baghdad):
The polls closed in all centers 90 minutes ago!

The IECI, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq which is supervising the election, had a press conference half an hour ago that pretty much summarized today’s events. From watching this press conference and analyzing the reports we received today we can say that the following points represent the most important findings:

-Security was much better than last time in January and there were only a few minor incidents.

-It was clear that the IECI and its multi-thousand strong staff did a wonderful and exceptional job in such a hard time to make the election go in the best way possible.

-The Iraqi Army and police were successful in giving our people the opportunity to vote in a peaceful environment.

-The total registered voter-count was 1,000,000 higher than in January after adding Iraqi citizens who were born in 1987.

-15.5 million+ Iraqis cast their votes in more than 30,000 stations spread nationwide.

-All the assassinations and intimidation that preceded the election could not stop the process.

-There have been strict measures to make sure that all ballot boxes and stations are in compliance with the standards of the IECI and now it’s their -- the IECI's -- duty to make sure that no boxes were replaced or manipulated.

-The presence of the press and representatives of political bodies and civil society organizations was profound although there were limitations on the presence of media workers. However, the process was being watched 600,000 eyes!

-The IECI distributed 5,000,000 posters nationwide to educate the population on the process and encourage Iraqis to vote.

-2 million brochures were distributed to inform the people on the technical and moral aspects of the election.-Countless numbers of conferences, lectures and workshops were held to educate the people and encourage them to vote.

-Almost all the defects that took place in some regions today were basically cases in which voters couldn’t find their names in the voter lists.

-Counting the votes has begun in all stations and the results will be collected and conveyed to the provincial offices to be later conveyed to the IECI HQ in Baghdad.

WZ for Pajamas Media at 9:50 a.m. (Erbil):
After an eventful day for the voters, the polling stations closed their doors at 5 pm while the voters were still arriving!We met a IECI official in one of the stations and we asked him about this day and the efforts the IECI made to assure the success of the voting, he replied: "it was really a big day and it turned to be a celebration just like the Norooz day. Then he added "I'm extremely happy that I can't even feel tired."

We also asked him about the voter's turnout and he answered "it was more than what we expected," and regarding the obstacles they faced today he said "the only obstacle we faced today was some 14 to 17 years old boys who wanted to participate and when we prevented them they organized some kind of demonstration in front of the station!"

And when we asked him about his expectations he stated : "I don’t have any numbers now and we will wait for the results to come from the provincial office too" and his last answer was about whether there had any violations; he said "no, everything went on smoothly".

NR for Pajamas Media at 10:00 a.m. (Mosul):
Counting the votes has begun in the entire territory of Nineveh provinces and its capital of Mosul.

An IECI spokesman in the province said that all parties and lists have the right to send their representatives to observe the process of collecting and evacuating the ballot boxes and we actually did see small numbers of those representatives accompanying the IECI officials to the provincial office.Some of those representatives had complaints that were not answered by the local electoral authorities so they decided to send their complaints to the main office or even to the Supreme Court if they didn’t get convincing answers for their complaints.

From its end, the IECI called upon all lists to “be patient until the counts are over”.

According to semi-official information we were able to get, it seems that the National Accord Front will rank first on the province followed by Allawi’s 731 list and then by Salih al-Mutlaq’s while the UIA are expected to score excellent results in the suburbs of Mosul where a Sheat majority lives.

Observers see that the seemingly inevitable success of the Accord Front is attributed to their religious inclination which attracted many votes from Mosul. Add to this that mosques led a powerful campaign to urge the residents to vote for this list.

In spite of the reservations and objections of the educated class in Mosul, the Accord Front will get much of the votes and this can also be attributed to the fact that the Islamic Party, which has a strong public base in Mosul, decided to join this list.

However, there were many people who voted for other lists as we mentioned above and they explained that they made this decision because the Islamic Party’s visions do not serve their ambitions especially that “this party flip-flops”!

(LOL. I didn't know John Kerry was running for office over there.)

AT for Pajamas Media at 10:20 a.m. (Babil):
Polls closed at 5 pm in many centers in the province while some continued to receive voters until 6 pm. Counting the ballot papers has begun in all of the 268 centers that exist in Babil.

Lawyer Qais al-Hasnawi, spokesman of the IECI in the province, announced that turnout levels in Babil ranged between 65-70%, which puts the province among those with the highest levels of voters’ turnout.

Al-Hasnawi revealed that “hot spots” usually known as the death triangle like Jurf al-Sakher, Musayab, Haswa and Alexandria had also recorded high turnout levels without any violations.

We have talked to a number of political parties’ representatives and they were all satisfied with the security measures and the transparency that accompanied the process.We have also noticed some interesting events and gestures in Babil today, like:

-Several polling centers distributed sweets and soft drinks to the voters while men and women cheered and sang celebratory songs.

-An election official refused to let the governor of Babil cast his ballot until he showed his id card!

-Some voters marked their choices with blood by pricking their fingers in a demonstration of patriotism.

-The city council in Hilla (the provincial capital) arranged to bring 125 buses to move voters from their homes to the polling station.

The Highlight wrap-up from the correspondants participating on behalf of Pajamas Media and Iraq The Model. (Thomas posted this in his latest post, but it's worth repeating.)

Iraq's historic national elections for parliament began with troubling reports that Zarqawi promised a bloody day via the Arabic media, WA in Baghdad reported for Pajamas Media, with one widely spread rumor that the water had been poisoned. But Sunni and Shii mosques urged people to vote, and children began playing soccer in the quiet streets of Baghdad, which is 11 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific time. One of the oldest Iraqis believed to have voted, Muhaisin Bidairy Abdullah, said to have been born in 1900, "could hardly breathe with tears visible in his eyes," W.A. reported. AD in Basra reported that voters flocked to the polls amidst thick fog in that city, with turnout levels exceeding 84 percent at some polling centers and voters feeling safe enough to walk "in masses down the streets flying Iraqi flags and chanting for democracy in Iraq." IS in Karbala and WZ in Erbil in a joint report quoted an Iraqi woman at a Karbala polling place holding a tray of cream and cheese who had squeezed her vote in during her job selling dairy products on the sidewalk.

AS in Najaf -- whose report was delayed while he sought internet access -- toured 10 polling centers and quoted voter Ali-Hassoon al-Badri who said "electing our representatives is a basic right for everyone and it is not a gift from anyone." NR in Mosul reported that as the voting deadline drew to a close, "substantial numbers of people [were] coming to the stations" to vote, while Mosul's police command volunteered to drive in voters who lived at a distance from the polls. Ninety minutes after the polls had closed, Mohammed of Iraq the Model in Baghdad reported a full summary of data, including that 600,000 observers of various kinds watched the polls to guard the process, and "countless numbers of conferences, lectures and workshops" had been held to educate and encourage people to vote. WZ reported from Erbil that one polling official was so happy with the vote "I can't even feel tired." NR in Mosul found that the National Accord Front was doing well because its religious appeal attracted many votes "in spite of the reservations and objections of the educated classes in Mosul." AT in Babil reported, humorously, that an election official refused to let Babil's governor cast his ballot "until he showed his i.d. card," and some polling places broke out soft drinks while men and women voters sang celebratory songs. And in Hilla, A.T. reported, the city council provided 125 buses to take voters to the polls.

And, as the Tom Petty song goes "the waiting is the hardest part." It will be some time before we see the results of the history that unfolded today. But based on these correspondants' questions and observations on the ground today, we can only estimate that there will be no Islamic theocracy descending on this nation. They truly have grasped the concept of freedom, democracy, and individual rights.

On behalf of the Asylum--Thomas, Marcie, and myself--we thank Pajamas Media, Iraq The Model, and every correspondant that covered this event.


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