An Iraqi panel investigating election complaints ordered on Monday a recount of more than 2.5 million votes cast in Baghdad during the March 7 election, agreeing to a demand by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that could swing the outcome in his favour.
Mr. Maliki won 89 of 325 parliamentary seats, coming in second behind the former Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, with 91 seats. Neither has been able to cobble together a majority coalition with the support of other parties yet, and Mr. Maliki has been trying to alter the outcome through various court appeals and other challenges, and by trying to woo support away from Mr. Allawi.
Mr. Maliki's State of Law bloc has claimed election fraud and demanded a recount in five provinces, including Baghdad which accounts for almost a fifth of parliamentary seats.
The recount was ordered by the Independent High Electoral Commission, a three-member panel that investigates election-related complaints, said commission official Hamdia al-Hussaini.
The order was handed down on the same day that powerful Shia leader Ammar al-Hakim said he did not see either Mr. Maliki or Mr. Allawi as candidates who could succeed as Prime Minister because, in his view, they do not have enough support in Iraq or internationally. Mr. Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council is part of the Iraqi National Alliance, which came in third in the election. INA's support is key for any leader to form a government and his remarks only added to the political uncertainty over who will be able to build a ruling coalition.
Mr. Maliki said on state television on Monday two leading Al-Qaeda figures had been killed north of Baghdad.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri were killed in Salaheddin province by Iraqi intelligence agents who had been given U.S. assistance, said Mr. Maliki, showing pictures of both men before and after their deaths.