Iraqi election monitors on Sunday reported multiple irregularities in the country’s first provincial vote since U.S. troops left but were unclear as to whether results would be affected. In an initial report, two non-governmental organizations, Shams and Tamoz, said over 300 irregularities had been recorded by the seven thousand monitors they had sent across Iraq to cover Saturday’s polls. The vote was a key test of Iraq’s short experience with democratic elections because it was the first one run since the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011. Allegations of vote fixing are not uncommon following elections in the country.
In one instance, Hoger Jato of Shams said some security force members had helped specific campaigns while on duty, with some advising voters at polling centers on who to support. Elsewhere, electoral commission employees reportedly failed to check the identities of voters, allowing them to cast ballots on behalf others.
Announcing the report at a news conference in Baghdad, the NGOs did not say whether the irregularities were widespread enough to significantly affect the election’s outcome.
The reports came as Iraqis began counting votes, unloading hundreds of ballot boxes from trucks and tallying the figures in the heavily guarded counting centers. Employees of the country’s independent electoral commission went through the ballots under supervision of political party representatives.
Votes are first manually sorted before being entered into a computerized system. Final results are expected in several days.
Despite widespread violence in the run-up to the election that left at least 14 candidates dead, Saturday’s voting was mostly peaceful. A few mortar shells and small bombs struck near polling centers, wounding at least six people.