Iraqi judges to supervise manual recount after election fraud allegations

The dispute over the election could prolong the process of forming a new government.
Sunday 10/06/2018
Employees of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission inspect ballot boxes at a warehouse in Najaf, on May 15. (Reuters)
Employees of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission inspect ballot boxes at a warehouse in Najaf, on May 15. (Reuters)

LONDON - Iraq’s top judicial authority has taken over the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) as stipulated by a law passed by parliament in response to complaints of widespread fraud in May 12 national elections.

Lawmakers approved amendments to the election law that include annulling results from voting abroad and camps for displaced people in four Sunni-dominated provinces and call for a manual recount of all ballots.

Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said the group of leading jurists, who are appointed by parliament, were to select judges to run the commission and supervise the manual recount. Bayrkdar said the council would act in a “fair and impartial way.”

The IHEC, in a statement, defended its procedures as “professional and transparent” and expressed readiness to cooperate with judicial authorities. However, “[t]he commission’s board will use its constitutional and legal right to appeal the amendment to the election law because it contains violations and is not in harmony with the constitution,” the IHEC board said in a statement.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mainly Sunnis, were driven from their homes during the war against the Islamic State. Many have been unable to return because their homes were destroyed. It’s not known how many of them voted in the election or what effect cancelling their ballots could have on results.

Last month’s elections — the fourth in 15 years — saw low turnout said to reflect widespread anger at the country’s political class.

Supporters of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr emerged with the most seats, followed by a coalition of mostly Shia paramilitary forces and another led by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The dispute over the election could prolong the process of forming a new government.

A government committee set up to investigate the election reported “unprecedented” violations by the IHEC, Abadi said. He called for criminal investigations and banned election officials from travelling abroad without his approval.

The IHEC had rejected past calls for a manual recount or the cancellation of ballots.

It’s unclear whether a recount would change the outcome of the election. The winners of the election have begun talks on forming a new government.

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