Vote recount begins in Iraq

A manual recount got under way Monday of some ballots cast in Iraq’s national elections nearly two months ago.

A judicial panel ordered the recount last month of ballots cast in Baghdad province, ruling in favor of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition. The coalition had challenged the results in the capital province, the country’s most populous.

The recount of more than two million ballots is expected to take up to two weeks, electoral officials said Monday.

U.S. and Iraqi officials said they do not expect the recount to significantly impact the results of the March 7 elections.

No decisive winner has emerged even though the elections happened nearly two months ago.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s mainly secular coalition won 91 seats in parliamentary elections compared with 89 seats for al-Maliki’s coalition.

A coalition needs more than half the seats in parliament – 163 of 325 seats – to form a government. Coalitions typically align with other blocs to form a majority.

So far, the process has been slow.

Political opponents have accused al-Maliki of trying to alter the results by overturning Allawi’s two-seat lead.

On Monday, less than two hours into the recount of votes in Baghdad, al-Maliki’s coalition complained about the process.

It said Independent High Electoral Commission should be cross-checking ballots with registration lists – not just re-counting ballots. The coalition would not accept the results of the recount in its current form, said Hussein al-Shahirstani, Iraq’s oil minister and a leading member of al-Maliki’s coalition.

The head of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Faraj al-Haidari, said the recount procedures were based on the commission’s interpretation of a court decision involving the recount. He said the commission would continue with its current recount plan unless a court ordered it to do otherwise.


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