Iraqis will probably have to wait a couple of weeks to learn the winners of this weekend’s election, with guerrilla attacks and other factors expected to slow the vote tally, a foreign election adviser in Baghdad said on Thursday.
In the interest of transparency, some early results will trickle out as ballots are counted, but Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission won’t be able to declare winners until a painstaking count is finished, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“This isn’t the type of election where you have a big tote board somewhere and you’re marking the returns as they come in,” he said in a telephone interview. “It won’t be on Sunday night.”
Iraq’s style of election makes it especially difficult to call the results quickly or to question voters leaving the polls to predict an early winner, as is done in the United States.
Iraqis will vote for a list of candidates rather than for individuals, with no possibility for split ticket voting. Seats in Iraq’s 275-member National Assembly will be handed out according to the party’s showing nationwide.
This fact makes the last 10 percent of the ballots counted as critical as the first 10 percent, the official said. A strong showing by one party in the last ballots counted could significantly alter the results.
Assembly, council, then prime minister
the prime minister’s job also hinges on the final count. The National Assembly will choose a three-member presidential council which in turn picks the prime minister. The prime minister and his Cabinet must be approved by the assembly.
When voting finishes Sunday night, election officials are supposed to count the ballots at the roughly 5,300 polling sites. Sometime later, they must physically deliver the totals to the electoral commission in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. For security reasons officials won’t say how those tally sheets will be delivered.
Election officials don’t yet know how long it will take workers in the Green Zone to count the results and name the winners. It’s expected to take a week or more.
“It will be a matter of a few days before any data comes out and longer to declare any conclusive result. It could easily run to a couple weeks,” the adviser said.
Guerrillas have vowed to attack any target related to the elections with the intent of disrupting the vote and tainting the legitimacy of the emerging government. Security measures at election sites will also delay the results, the adviser said.
Dozens of data points on each form
The commission must pore over some 65,000 summary election forms, one from each voting booth for each election — two in most of Iraq, three in Kurdistan. Each form will have dozens or hundreds of data points on it that must be counted twice — and a third time if there are discrepancies.
“Under any circumstances, this is time-consuming,” the adviser said. “In Iraq, the commission is doing this for the first time. A week or two isn’t an especially long time to do this work.”
Since the world’s interest in the vote is so intense, the official said Iraqi election officials want to start releasing results — even if they aren’t final — within a few days, so the vote isn’t seen as tainted or manipulated.
The official said he knew of no exit polling planned for Sunday’s vote. He said he doubted whether exit polls could be accurate in Iraq, a country with little reliable demographic data, an intimidated electorate and an insurgency that has vowed to blast polling stations and those who frequent them.