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WikiLeaks: 2009-03-09: 09BAGHDAD612: Christian Parliamentarians Assess Provincial Elections

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD612: March 09, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 05:54 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD612 2009-03-09 15:22 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #0612/01 0681522
P 091522Z MAR 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000612 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2019 
Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor Steve Walker for reasons 1.4 
(b) and (d). 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Key Christian politicians acknowledge that 
the January 31 provincial elections were generally well 
organized and that security was excellent, and are pleased 
that nationalist and secular parties gained at the expense of 
major Islamic parties.  They complained, however, that 
internally displaced people (IDPs) from the north -- 
Christian, Kurdish and Arab -- were unable to vote because 
their names were left off official voter lists.  They accused 
the country's major parties of manipulating the Independent 
High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to increase their share of 
power, and alleged that Kurdish political parties manipulated 
minority voters.  They offered no evidence for these 
allegations, however, and their claims do not jibe with what 
Embassy observation teams saw in Christian areas of Ninewa on 
Election Day.  End summary. 
Assessing the Provincial Council Elections 
2.  (C)  Despite initially calling the January 31 provincial 
elections a "disaster" for Christians, Assyrian Democratic 
Movement (ADM) leader and member of parliament Yonadam Kanna 
conceded that the elections had been generally well organized 
and that security had been "excellent."  Kanna is pleased 
that Islamic parties made a poor showing, believing the 
provincial elections will set the tone for the December 2009 
parliamentary elections and that the country "is going in the 
right direction."  He encouraged the U.S. to support minor 
political parties (e.g., by giving them media exposure) so 
they can strengthen their position in the parliament. 
Although Kanna repeated an often-heard complaint that IHEC is 
controlled by the parties in power (emphasizing that IHEC 
Director Faraj al-Haidari is "a 30-year KDP member"), he did 
not expect the results to be contested, despite the large 
number of IDPs who were unable to vote.  In an aside, he 
noted that not only Christian IDPs had been left off voter 
rolls, but Kurdish and Arab IDPs as well. 
3.  (C)  Kanna claimed that Yezidis were pressured by Kurds 
to vote for Kurdish parties.  Without offering any evidence, 
Kanna opined that many polling stations had run out of 
ballots in the afternoon because the Kurds had bussed in 
Yezidis from outlying villages and had them vote for Kurdish 
lists, even if they were not listed in the voter rolls. 
Kanna recounted that, in Baghdad, a Christian priest had been 
turned away from the polling station he had voted at in past 
elections because his name could not be found on the voter 
list.  (Comment:  Kanna offered no evidence that the Kurdish 
parties pressured Yezidi voters.  Our election observation 
teams found few such cases.  In fact, the anti-KRG candidate 
beat the pro-KRG candidate in the election for the seat set 
aside to represent the Yezidi community, and more than half 
of the Kurdish Alliance's provincial councilors will be 
Yezidis.  In addition, the phenomenon of voters not finding 
their names on voters' lists was widespread on election day 
throughout Iraq, as were allegations that political parties 
around the country had provided buses to transport voters to 
polling sites.  End comment.) 
Variations on IDP Problems; KDP Meddling 
4.  (C)  Kanna's colleague in the parliament, Chaldean 
Democratic Union Party leader Ablahad Afram Sawa, claimed to 
Poloff on February 2 that, in the north, at least 3,000 IDP 
QPoloff on February 2 that, in the north, at least 3,000 IDP 
voters of all religions and ethnicities had been 
disenfranchised because their names could not be found on 
voter lists.  Sawa pointed out that this was not a problem 
when would-be voters in Tel Usquf village were told to go to 
Batnaya 10 km away.  He claimed, however, that many voters 
had been directed to polling centers 50-60 km away, but did 
not identify these villages by name.  Sawa reported that, in 
one instance, "a large crowd" of IDP voters in Zakho was told 
by IHEC officials to go to Dohuk.  He said that when they 
arrived in Dohuk, IHEC officials there still could not find 
their names on the voter list, but said they would get 
authorization from IHEC in Baghdad to let them vote.  Sawa 
reported that IHEC did not respond before the polls closed, 
and the IDP voters were not allowed to cast their ballots. 
5.  (C)  Sawa blasted the Ishtar Patriotic List, an Assyrian 
political entity backed by the owner of Ishtar TV, for 
receiving under-the-table financing from KRG Finance Minister 
Sarkis.  Sawa also claimed that Ishtar officials were handing 
out $100 bribes.  According to Sawa, Ishtar also intimidated 
BAGHDAD 00000612  002 OF 002 
voters by suggesting that their public service benefits, 
including food aid, would decrease or even disappear if they 
did not vote for Ishtar. 
6.  (C)  Sawa was downbeat about Christian turnout in 
Baghdad, saying that indifference and fear had resulted in 
only 10-15% of Christians voting.  He claimed that none of 
the Karrada district's 500 Christian families voted because 
they were told by IHEC officials to go to a polling center in 
the distant Jamiat al-Mustansiriyah neighborhood.  Like 
Kanna, Sawa is pleased that Islamic parties did not fare 
well, and that more secular parties made gains. 
7.  (C)  PRT Ninewa reports that the local Government 
Electoral Officer (IHEC's senior representative in the 
province), Abdel Haleq, claimed that the complaints filed 
with IHEC -- even if all were valid -- would not have 
affected the outcome, in which the Sunni Arab Al-Hadba party 
won 19 of 34 open seats and saw anti-KRG parties win two of 
the three minority seats.  It is noteworthy that, echoing 
Haleq's statements, neither Kanna nor Sawa cited major 
oppression or harassment of Christian voters.  Both have 
acknowledged in the past that Christians will vote for 
whoever offers the best deal -- in these elections it seems 
that the KRG-supported Ishtar list did. 
8.  (C)  Ninewa Christian political preferences cannot be 
discerned from the available data.  We know that some 51,000 
Ninewa voters cast their ballots for the three minority-quota 
seats; we also know that the Ishtar list won 65% of the vote 
for the Christian seat.  It is possible that as few as 5,000 
people voted for the ADM-affiliated party.  While IDPs, voter 
list problems, strong-arm tactics and other skullduggery may 
have had some limited effect, our experience on election day, 
and overall, was that voters made a private decision in a 
contest whose integrity was strongest in Tal Kayf and 
Hamdaniya.  It is conceivable that the ADM is just not that 
popular on the Ninewa Plain.  It is also possible that Kanna 
and others have been revealed as politicians without large 
local bases of support. 


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