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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Iraq to begin manual recount of election votes on Tuesday

Only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud will be recounted

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, right, and Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr address a press conference in Najaf on June 23, 2018. Haidar Hamdani / AFP
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, right, and Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr address a press conference in Najaf on June 23, 2018. Haidar Hamdani / AFP

Iraq will begin a manual recount of votes on Tuesday from a May parliamentary election clouded by allegations of fraud, a step towards the formation of a new parliament and government.

Only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud will be recounted, a spokesman for the panel of judges conducting the recount said on Saturday.

"The manual recount will be conducted in the presence of representatives from the United Nations, foreign embassies and political parties; as well as local and international observers, members of the media, and the ministries of defence and the interior," Judge Laith Jabr Hamza said in a statement.

In seven provinces where many complaints of fraud were made - Kirkuk, Sulaimaniya, Erbil, Dohuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar - the recount will be conducted by the local electoral offices, Mr Hamza said.

Those ballot boxes which had already been transferred to Baghdad will be recounted in the capital.

The recount has been a politically fraught issue, with the leaders of winning blocs embroiled in negotiations for weeks over the formation of the next government.

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, whose electoral list came third in the poll marred by a historically low turnout, and the winner, cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, entered into an alliance last week, less than two weeks after Mr Al Sadr announced a similar alliance with second-placed Iran ally Hadi Al Amiri's bloc, thus bringing the top three blocs together.

The recount will exclude Baghdad, where a storage site holding half of Baghdad's ballot boxes went up in flames earlier this month in an incident Mr Al Abadi described as a "plot to harm the nation and its democracy".

Overseas votes in Iran, Turkey, Britain, Lebanon, Jordan, the United States and Germany will also be recounted, Mr Hamza said.

Earlier in June, the outgoing parliament passed a law mandating a nationwide manual recount of all votes, but the panel of judges now in charge of the process said it would only be conducted for those problematic ballots.

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