Iraqi election monitors on Sunday reported multiple irregularities in the country’s first provincial vote since US troops left, but were unclear as to whether results would be affected.
In an initial report, two non-governmental organizations, Shams and Tamoz, said more than 300 irregularities had been recorded by the 7,000 monitors they had sent 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 US withdrawal in December 2011.
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, employees at Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission reportedly failed to check voters’ identities, allowing them to cast ballots on behalf others.
On Sunday evening, a bomb went off in a popular kebab shop in Fallujah, 65km west of Baghdad, killing eight and wounding 25, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Earlier in the day, Iraqis began counting votes, unloading hundreds of ballot boxes from trucks and tallying the figures in the heavily guarded counting centers. Commission staff went through the ballots under the 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.
The turnout was 51 percent, the same as at the last provincial elections in 2009. When some eligible voters complained they did not find their names on the voting rolls, the commission blamed them for not updating their information.
Hours after closing the polls, UN Special Representative Martin Kobler praised the vote as well-organized and peaceful.
The voting took place in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Voting was not scheduled in the ethnically-mixed Tamim Province becasue ethnic groups have not reached a power-sharing deal. Elections were also delayed in two provinces because of unstable security conditions and the country’s autonomous three-province northern region were also not included in the polls.