Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al—Maliki on Sunday called for a recount of votes cast in the country’s March 7 parliamentary polls, after early results showed his main rival pulling ahead.
The Iraqi parliamentary race looked set to go down to the wire after early results announced late Saturday showed former prime minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi List eking out a narrow lead over Mr. al—Maliki’s State of Law coalition.
Mr. Al—Maliki on Sunday called on the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to conduct a manual recount of the national vote, given allegations of fraud.
This would “preserve political stability ... and avoid a return to violence,” he said in a statement.
The electoral commission stood by the early results, saying there was no need for a recount.
“The commission has handed over copies of the results from the polling stations to all political entities,” the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC)’s Faraj al—Haidari said in a statement broadcast on Iraqi state television.
“They should review these results and compare them to those announced by the commission before asking for a recount,” he said.
The commission is prepared for “a recount from any polling station with results that are different from those handed over to the political groups,” he said.
Abbas al—Bayati, a senior lawmaker running for re-election with Mr. al—Maliki’s coalition, defended the prime minister’s call for a recount.
“The call for a recount is legitimate and constitutional,” he told the German Press Agency dpa. “There are signs of a bug in the entering of (vote) data.” “Al—Maliki ... is calling for transparency. There are a number of entities with concerns,” Mr. Al—Bayati said. “The commission should respond to reassure these entities and settle the matter with transparency and trust.” The IHEC’s Qassim al—Aboudi noted that the commission had cancelled the results of five stations in Baghdad, Mosul and al—Anbar because of fraud.
He said the commission is still investigating 1,979 complaints, including 319 so—called “red—category,” or most serious, complaints.