Lethargy reigns among Kurds

A labourer used to early starts, Amjat Mohamed Said was at the polling booth by six in the morning.

That was in January, for Iraq's parliamentary elections. On Saturday, with the country voting on its new constitution, he preferred to spend the morning in the teashop with his friends.

'I'll go later, probably,' he said, with a shrug. 'But let's have a few more glasses of tea first.'

It was an attitude that summed up well the low-key atmosphere on polling day in Iraq's Kurdish north.

Back in January, most polling stations reported a 90 per cent turnout by midday. On Saturday, only about 60 per cent of voters appeared to have made the trip, most arriving in the afternoon.

Some officials blamed public lethargy on Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting when many believers wake late. Others pointed out that it was easier to get excited about a parliamentary election than an abstract set of laws that had received little debate in the Kurdish press.


Among the voters milling around the polling booths, though, only a tiny minority talked of the constitution. For the others, the referendum was a vote of confidence for the government. With Iraq's president a Kurd, and Kurds over-represented in the Baghdad parliament, almost all said they had an obligation to vote 'yes'.

But many did so unwillingly.

'The Kurdish parties promised us the world before the January elections, but they have done nothing since,' said voter Hussein Ibrahim.