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Assyrian Christians Protest Against Voting Irregularities

It has already been one week since the Iraqi national election. The unexpectedly tranquil election has been highly appreciated by world leaders and religious parties, symbolising a major step towards a stable government and a victory over terrorism. However, complaints about voting irregularities have emerged and tension is rising over the current period of vote count.

The complaints have mainly come from the violence-plagued areas or those with mixed religious and ethnic groups. Especially in the regions with concentrated Assyrian Christians populations, such as Mosul (ancient Nineveh) the tension has been stirring up.

Previous reports from the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) said that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) deprived thousands of Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq of voting. KDP blocked the delivery of ballot boxes to six major Assyrian towns and villages around Mosul including Baghdeda, Bartilla, Karemlesh, Shekhan, Ain Sifne and Bahzan.

A spokesman for Chaldean and Assyrian parties, William Warda, said the irregularities prevented 200,000 people from voting.

In addition, Associated Press reported that with the insurgents threatening to disrupt the balloting, many of Mosul's election workers quit their jobs.

Electoral commission officials in Baghdad have acknowledged that many polling sites never opened on 30th January or opened late because of what they said were security concerns. Some sites that opened could not be supplied with ballots and other election materials, officials have said.

"There are centres that opened and yet did not get enough ballots, which proves there were bad intentions," said Meshaan al-Jubouri, a Sunni Arab politician.

Yesterday, hundreds of Iraqis shouted slogans and waved Iraqi flags Sunday outside Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone to protest alleged irregularities. The demonstrators were mainly Assyrian Christians, Turkomen and Yazidis members of a small religion in the north.

Banners held aloft read, "Assyrians, Turkomens, Yazidis have the right to enjoy the essence of freedom," and "We demand our democratic rights and we reject marginalisation."

"We are protesting because we have been deprived of our right to participate in the elections," said Shameil Benjamin, a member of a Christian party called the Democratic Assyrian Movement. "There were irregularities and we felt that the in justice was inflicted on us."

Green Zone, where the campaign was held, houses the offices of the interim Iraqi government as well as the U.S. and British embassies. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq also is based inside the compound.

Al-Lami, the Iraq Electoral Commission official, said to Associated Press, the vote's credibility could not be judged before complaints were investigated. Currently, a team of independent lawyers is investigating the complaints in the city and will report back to the electoral commission.

However, he added, "The vast majority thinks the elections were a success."

By Eunice K. Y. Or
www.christiantoday.com


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