Voting goes smoothly as GIs observe
February 1, 2009
In Wasit province, south of Baghdad, Saturday’s voting ran smoothly, with only scattered reports of problems at polling stations. Turnout was generally light but steady, with no lines of people waiting to get inside.
Army Col. Richard Francey, commander of Forward Operating Base Delta, walked through downtown Kut on Saturday morning before visiting about a half-dozen polling sites with Wasit’s police chief and Iraqi army commander. Because U.S. troops were not allowed inside, they stayed outside the entrance to the polling stations — several in neighborhoods that were the center of an uprising against coalition forces last spring — and greeted residents.
"I was surprised it was running as smoothly as it was," Francey said.
At one polling station, a worker said many people had been turned away because their names weren’t on the voting lists, possibly because of an error in voter registration. Francey and the Iraqi officials also had a report during the day that supporters of one candidate were intimidating voters at a polling station. Iraqi forces were sent to investigate.
Two bombs were found near polling stations in Numaniyah on Friday and one in Suwera on Saturday, Francey and the Iraqi officials said.
Tim Timmons, leader of the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, was on one of three State Department observation teams that visited polling sites to make sure ballots boxes were sealed, voters weren’t being pressured to support certain candidates and that other elections procedures were being followed.
"It was very well organized, professionally done," he said."I was quite encouraged with what I saw."
Voter turnout was light during the morning, he said, and voters had to wait an average of four to seven minutes to cast ballots.
"This is the first time we leave our votes in the voting center behind us and we are sure nobody will do anything to it," Mufeed Hady Ragab, a voter, said through an interpreter.