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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sunnis Disenfranchised

Surprise:

Less than two hours after polling stations opened Saturday morning, potential voters in the Sunni town of Ishaki were convinced the Iraqi government had rigged the referendum in favor of Kurds, Shiites and Iran.

Dozens of locals, all planning to vote against the draft constitution, had been turned away from the single polling station in town. Lying 40 miles north of Baghdad and just south of Samarra, Ishaki is in the middle of Iraq's Sunni central region, Saddam Hussein's old heartland.

According to election officials here, all those rejected were registered at another polling station 3 miles away -- the only place they would be allowed to vote under the referendum's stringent rules. But a driving ban inside all urban areas, designed to stop suicide bomb attacks, meant these Sunnis, entering the democratic process for the first time, had effectively been disenfranchised.

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