The Interim Government of Iraq used extortion to encourage Iraqis to vote.
Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.
”I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man,” said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. ”This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration.”
Mohammed Ra’ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya’a district of the capital city reported a similar experience.
Ra’ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. ”The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting,” he said. ”Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote.”
”Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote,” said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.
Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies.
Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government to increase voter turnout.
Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad had said: ”I’ll vote because I can’t afford to have my food ration cut…if that happened, me and my family would starve to death.”
Hajar told IPS that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form stating that he had picked up his voter registration. He had feared that the government would use this information to track those who did not vote.
Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution of the monthly food ration, were not returned.
And Iraqi officials are revising voter turout numbers downwards.
IECI officials have meanwhile ‘downgraded’ their earlier estimate of voter turnout.
IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier, a figure given also by the Bush Administration.
But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.