Monday, March 22, 2010

Iraq’s election commission has refused requests from both the president and prime minister of the country to recount votes from the parliamentary election on March 7.

According to an official from the commission, the Independent High Electoral Commission, a recount was unnecessary because of checks for fraud, as well as being impossible. Despite these claims, the long interval between the elections and the announcement of official results has led to increasing allegations of fraud and calls for a recount, from both civilians and politicians. In the city of Najaf, a recent protest demanding a recount drew hundreds of people, some with signs accusing the commission of fraud.

The commission has had to deal with numerous issues in its count of the votes, including technical problems with the counting system, and mistakes in the counting of votes have led some employees to be fired from the operation. Despite the problems, it has succeeded in counting around 90% of the votes, and the current results have former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi leading current PM Nouri Maliki by around 8,000 votes, although Maliki’s party stood to gain more representation, as it led in seven out of eighteen provinces, and seats in Parliament are allocated based on the outcome of each province. Final results from the election are expected by the end of March

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a formal call for a recount, saying that “I demand the Independent High Electoral Commission recount the ballots manually starting from Sunday, March 21.” Maliki has also made his support for a recount clear. Despite the pressure, the commission has said that such a recount “can’t be done,” while at the same time denying that it was impossible, only very time-consuming, and only results from individual provinces could be recounted.

Despite claims of fraud in the election, most international observers have been largely supportive of the conduct, although this sentiment is not shared by some Iraqi politicians, including Allawi, who said that the election had been “grossly mismanaged.”