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Robertson: Sunnis now trying to get on board


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Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson
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The United Iraq Alliance takes a plurality in Iraq's election.
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Nic Robertson
Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The United Iraq Alliance won a plurality of votes in the January 30 elections but fell short of an outright majority, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said Sunday.

The results announced are "final uncertified" results -- political parties have three days to file objections before they are certified.

CNN anchor Betty Nguyen spoke with Nic Robertson who is in Baghdad, about the elections results and what expectations they carry with them.

BETTY NGUYEN: Nic, so what kind of deals are going to be made? Jane Arraf spoke earlier about deals being made so that Sunnis can come into some kind of power in this new government. With this low turnout, which we're seeing today, with the numbers that are being presented, what kind of deals are being made so they can have a spot in this new government?

NIC ROBERTSON: Well, really, the strongest political party at this time, United Iraqi Alliance, its leading politicians have already been in closed-door meetings with some of the leading Sunni politicians, and that is because those politicians, the Sunni politicians, want to get involved in the drafting of the constitution for Iraq. This is going to be a permanent document that is going to enshrine the laws for the future of the country, until such time as they change it again. So there is an element that is realizing that they've missed an opportunity by not taking part in the elections, and they are trying to get on board with the process, and of course this is the big test, if you will. Will this disenfranchise the Sunnis, or will they realize that they've made a mistake and get involved? And the early indications are some of the influential figures, the Association of Muslim Scholars, are getting involved, and perhaps for those that want to see the Sunnis get involved in the electoral process, that's a very good indication for them, Betty.

NGUYEN: Speaking of getting involved, those numbers again are really kind of staggering. 8.55 million Iraqis cast their vote in this election. Some 9.6 million eligible to vote. So that's a large number. What does that say about the legitimacy of this new government? Do they really have a large backing, considering the number of people who actually came out to take part in this election?

ROBERTSON: That was very clear on election day, that the figures -- that the numbers of people coming out through the day really came up through the day, and particularly in some of those areas where terrorism and the threat of violence had really weighed heavily on people's minds. The voting figures really came up. The number of people coming out through the day really came up, and this really answered for a lot of people here the question of legitimacy of the government. If so many people came out, therefore, this is more legitimate -- therefore the government is more legitimate.

Really, the questions are being asked that you would see perhaps in some of the minority communities. We've seen the Turkoman demonstrating saying that they are not getting a full representation. They're perhaps 1 to 2 percent of the total population in the country. And that element of, again, of Sunnis. Do they feel disenfranchised?

But the indication is -- is that because the numbers were high, this adds a greater level of legitimacy, and that's what the Iraqis here are saying. And I talked to Sunnis here who voted in the elections. They wanted more people to vote in their communities. They understood why they hadn't, but they believe that it was important, and that does seem to be the prevailing view.

NGUYEN: Nic, there's going to be three days to certify these uncertified votes right now. But there were some concerns, because some 300 ballot boxes had to be recounted in this election. Do you think these will be certified within three days, or are we going to see some objections to these results?

ROBERTSON: I think the deductions from the questionable ballot boxes have already been made. There were 40 cases -- or 40 ballot boxes that were disallowed by the electoral commission just a couple of days ago. So they have made those final calculations. This period of time for the queries to be made, this three-day period before the certification is to allow anyone to come forward that takes a look at the results and says, "that's not right and here's the reason." And then those cases will be analyzed and given time for full explanation.

But I think any ballot boxes that were going to be disqualified, that really has already happened. And when they began the process of announcing the results here, they were very keen to say, "Look, there hasn't been a delay. This has all been about accuracy. This has all been about transparency. We don't want to make any mistakes". They have had three sets of people checking the facts and figures as they come in every step of the way, working seven days a week, 24 hours a day, they've been telling us.

So it has been -- it has been a system that has had sort of full accountability all the way through, full transparency, and therefore the chance of somebody coming back and saying, "Hey, there's a box of ballots here that shouldn't have been counted, should have been disqualified," that doesn't seem likely at this stage.


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