Sunni leader claims Iraq vote was a "farce"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 Saleh al-Mutlaq , spokesman for the National Dialogue Council, says his Sunni group does not accept the referendum report because; "We feel that this constitution is illegitimate and the referendum was not done in a correct way; therefore we want the referendum to be repeated in four provinces at least."

Al-Mutlaq also called the referendum "a farce" and said that government forces stole ballot boxes full of "no" votes in the mostly Sunni-Arab provinces. He claimed that 80 percent said "no" in Mosul, the provincial capital of Ninevah where the outcome of the election was held in balance. "We believe that the results have been forged in Mosul, Diyala and most southern Iraqi governorates," Al-Mutlaq said.

Another Sunni politician, Hussein al-Falluji, called on the United Nations to intervene. He said, "Violence is not the only solution, if politics offers solutions so that we can move in that direction. But there is very little hope that we can make any gains in the elections." Falluji echoed concerns that Sunnis disaffected by the vote may join the insurgency inside Iraq.

However, Farid Ayar of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission said before reading the official vote outcome that, "Whatever the results of the referendum are ... it is a civilized step that aims to put Iraq on the path of true democracy."

Iraq officials reported that 97 percent of voters in the predominately Sunni province of al-Anbar and 82 percent of voters in Salaheddin province rejected the constitution. The 55 percent "no" vote in Ninevah was short of the 66 percent that would have defeated the referendum.

Shortly before the vote, the largest Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, agreed to lend some support to the referendum in return for the inclusion of an option to amend the document. Lawmakers are to convene a body to consider further changes to the constitution before the new National Assembly vote in December.

Sunni sects account for nearly 20 percent of the country’s population. Their large turnout for the referendum vote is in contrast to the low participation they showed in the January election which established the interim government.

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