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Iraq: where were the international election monitors

The American Prospect reports: It's too early to know whether early reports of implausibly high numbers of "yes" voters in Saturday's referendum in Iraq will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the country's new constitution. While there's still hope for a clean victory, sufficient doubts have been cast on the results to open a door for those who would wish to cry foul. Whether whiffs of ballot-stuffing or fraud are validated, the absence of a large-scale international observer contingent on hand to monitor this high-stakes election was a glaring gap in the planning for this pivotal event.

The presence of international observers has become a mainstay of election planning in transitional societies, as their presence deters would-be spoilers from planning shenanigans. Observers can watch balloting, oversee the collection and storage of votes, and monitor counting. Tasks range from reporting on improper campaign activities at polling stations, to preventing people from voting more than once, to imposing fair and transparent methods for tallying votes. International monitors have played essential roles in recent elections in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. -- Ballot Botch

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