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05BASRAH147 2005-12-13 08:58:00 CONFIDENTIAL REO Basrah
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1. (C) In a December 12 meeting with the Basrah Regional
Embassy Office, Basrah Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq
(IECI) Manager Hazim Joda said that approximately 100 South Oil
Company (SOC) workers held a demonstration at the Basrah
Governorate because no arrangements have been made to allow them
to vote on December 15. Hazim identified security issues as his
greatest concern in the lead-up to the December 15 elections.
Intimidation campaigns and violence targeting Ayid Allawi's
Iraqi National Accord party have been reported to the Basrah
IECI, but no mechanisms are in place to take action to halt this
behavior. End Summary.

Hungry for Democracy


2. (U) In a December 12 meeting with the Basrah Regional
Embassy Office, Basrah IECI Manager Hazim Joda said that about
100 SOC guards were holding a demonstration at the Basrah
Governorate because they were not permitted to vote on December
12 and no arrangements have been made to allow them to vote on
December 15. Hazim stated that he had sent a letter to the IECI
in Baghdad on behalf of the SOC requesting permission for these
workers to travel on election day to vote at the nearest polling
stations to their oil stations, but had not yet received a
reply. The petroleum workers have threatened to strike on
election day in order to assert their right to vote. (Note:
About 8000 SOC guards and 6000 petroleum workers in the Basrah
area work 12-hour shifts that prevent them from leaving work
during voting hours without special permission. Although the
SOC has indicated its willingness to make special arrangements
to enable workers to leave their posts on election day, they
would not be able to reach the polling stations where they are
registered because of election day travel restrictions. End

3. (U) According to Hazim, the SOC guards consider themselves
part of the Iraqi military, and many of them are ex-soldiers.
They desired to vote on December 12 along with special
provisions made for hospital invalids, prisoners, police and
military who are unable to travel on election day. However,
these guards are not technically members of the military or
police and have not been granted the right to vote early.

4. (SBU) Hazim said that he advised the SOC Deputy, Abdul
Kareem Kazeem, to work through the Director General of Oil to
bring national attention to the issue. Hazim said that he also
placed phone calls to the Baghdad IECI operation manager, but
has not received a response. Without intervention from the
central government, Hazim stated that the IECI would not make an
exception to allow oil station workers to vote on election day.
Hazim said it was his opinion that the IECI in Baghdad had not
responded to his suggestion to allow the SOC workers the right
to vote at the nearest poll station to their place of work
because it does not intend to approve his suggestion.

Security Still the Main Concern


5. (SBU) Hazim identified security issues as his greatest
concern in the lead-up to the December 15 elections. Another
large demonstration took place in the Al Gurma area in the
northern part of Basrah on December 12 to protest recent British
military arrests. Hazim said that luckily his office had decided
earlier, at the suggestion of Chief of Police General Hassan
Sewadi, to postpone the distribution of election materials until
December 13, or else the angry crowds could have interfered with
the distribution. He gave his assurances that the election
materials could still be delivered in time despite the one-day
delay. He expects no major security problems on December 15 in
Basrah, though if disruptions do occur he believes they would be
in the form of attacks on water and power lines. The protection
of polling stations is his main concern, and police, military,
and Iraqi intelligence circles of defense will be deployed
around each center.

6. (C) The Basrah IECI has received many complaints about
intimidation of political parties, Hazim said, including reports
of individuals killed for hanging Allawi campaign posters (see
reftel). Hazim said he has followed procedure by reviewing
these complaints in a special committee and forwarding those
complaints that are substantiated to the central IECI office in
Baghdad, but that "Baghdad does nothing." He said that the IECI
cannot remove people from the party lists on the basis of
complaints alone, and that most people, himself included, are
too scared to do something about the problem. Those suspected
of the transgressions, he said, are the ones who are currently
in power.


7. (C) The meeting with Hazim highlighted his serious concerns
with security on the day of the elections. However, it also
provided a glimpse of how passionate Iraqis feel about
participating in the electoral process. The SOC workers staged
a demonstration to voice their complaints about not being
allowed to exercise their right to vote on the same day as other
Iraqi citizens who are either incapacitated, in prison or unable
to leave their posts unattended. In fact, during the meeting,
Hazim received a telephone call from the Deputy Director of SOC
stating that if oil workers were not allowed to vote, they would
refuse to pump oil on election day in order to travel to their
polling stations and vote. Hazim's proposed solution of the
Baghdad IECI giving special permission to SOC workers to vote at
the nearest polling station to their work posts appears to be
the only viable solution to the dilemma at this late date. End