BAGHDAD — Ninevah province, home to the mixed city of Mosul and the besieged city of Tal ‘Afar, is seeing some _very_ strange numbers. I’ve done back of the Excel envelope calculations and have found this:
* In the January election, which was boycotted by Sunnis, there were 165,934 votes cast, according to the “Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq”:http://ieciraq.org/English/Home.htm.
* In October, according to “AP’s preliminary results”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051017/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_vote_results, there were 419,804 votes cast in Ninevah, an increase of 253,870 votes, or +152.99 percent.
* The number of people voting *for* the constitution in Ninevah, according to the AP, was 326,774 (78 percent), with 90,065 voting *against* it (21 percent). Less than 1 percent, or 2,965 votes, was disqualified.
By way of comparison, Tamim province, home to the disputed city of Kirkuk, saw 542,000 votes cast — an increase of 35.2 percent over January — with 341,611 voting “yes” (63 percent) and 195,725 voting “no” (36 percent). You mean we’re supposed to believe that in Tamim, which is also a mixed province but which has had a steady stream of Kurds moving in for the last two-and-a-half years, had *more than twice as many no votes as Ninevah?* And with the Kurds already pretty much owning Kirkuk? Color me skeptical.
What’s truly eyebrow-raising is that the number of constitutional “yes” votes — 326,774 — is more than the total increase in votes over January’s turnout. That suggests that not only did all of the Sunnis in Ninevah province, who largely boycotted the January elections turn out, but that they _all voted for the constitution._ That’s a very strange idea to me, as I’ve not met a single Sunni who voted for it here in Baghdad.
Ninevah is home to Mosul, a mixed city of about 2 million Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds, as well as Tal’Afar, the mostly Turkoman city of 500,000 that U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed last month. Anecdotal reports are that a) Sunni Arabs have come out in droves, mainly to vote down the constitution, and b) the constitution was very unpopular in Tal’Afar because of military actions there.
Now, several possibilities spring to mind: Sunni Arabs in the north really _love_ the idea of the new national charter, but I find this unlikely, to say the least. In fact, I only suggest it for the giggle factor. Another possibility is that the vote was blatantly fixed. A third possibility is that the Kurds moved thousands of people into Mosul to skew the vote. Oddly enough, I heard Sunnis making just this charge in the run-up to the Saturday’s referendum. A third possibility is a combination of the last two. The vote was rigged _and_ the Kurds moved people in.
Now, contrasting points that prove I don’t know what I’m talking about, suggested by colleagues:
# Mosul is an Iraqi Islamic Party stronghold. The IIP called on its supporters to vote “yes” after a deal last week to open up the constitution to early amendments. This split the Sunni opposition to the charter.
# The Sunnis simply don’t make up 20 percent of Iraq. There hasn’t been a reliable census in years and not only do the Sunnis not make up 42 percent of Iraq as Saleh Mutlaq, a member of the National Dialogue Council, claims, but they’re much fewer than the 20 percent most people assume.
# Ninevah and Mosul aren’t Sunni strongholds. It’s conventional wisdom, but maybe that’s wrong.
# Mosul was a lot more violent in January, keeping the vote there down. Perhaps now, with less violence, more Kurds — perhaps half of the total increase — were able to come out and vote.
# The Turkomans aren’t a factor. Money quote from cynical colleague: “There are more Turkoman parties than there are Turkomans.”
# The AP numbers are so preliminary, they’re flat-out wrong.
The possibility exists that all of these possibilities have played into the dynamic in Ninevah, leading to wild numbers, and I’ve not been able to reach a stringer in Mosul yet to get more information. But if these numbers hold, there’s something very, very rotten in the north.
(Hat tip to various commenters who alerted me to the numbers here.)