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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Iraqi Prime Minister dismisses demands for repeat election

Washington makes contact with ex-foe Moqtada Al Sadr on forming next government

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, right, and Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr hold a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, early Sunday, May 20, 2018. Iraqi Government via AP
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, right, and Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr hold a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, early Sunday, May 20, 2018. Iraqi Government via AP

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi dismissed demands for a re-run of the country's parliamentary elections amid allegations of ballot rigging.

The United Nations and Iraqi lawmakers have called for an investigation into complaints about electoral fraud and demands for manual recounts in some districts, which has questioned the legitimacy of the country's vote.

"We call on the commission to be transparent and to ensure the rights of voters. The electoral auditing process should reveal the [alleged] violations, but the election process cannot be repeated," Mr Al Abadi said on Tuesday during a press conference.

Voting was conducted electronically for the first time in an effort to reduce fraud.

The repeat vote being sought isn't expected to have an impact upon the surprising results that put Shiite Cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's Marching Towards Reform bloc as the biggest winner.

The vote dealt a blow to the incumbent prime minister, whose Victory Alliance came in third. But he could still emerge as a compromise candidate palatable to all sides because he has managed the competing interests of the US and Iran – unwitting allies in the war against ISIS – during his term in office.

A recent meeting between Mr Abadi and Mr Al Sadr indicated that they could form an alliance in the new government.

Mr Al Abadi said that an agreement is "almost complete" agreement with Mr Al Sadr's bloc to form a government of “strong technocrats”.

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Read more:

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Iraq's PM congratulates Moqtada Al Sadr on election performance

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Meanwhile, the US contacted members of Mr Al Sadr's alliance on Wednesday after his victory gave him the upper hand in forming Iraq's next government.

Dhiaa Al Asadi, a top aide to the cleric, said officials in Washington had used intermediaries to initiate contact with members of his bloc.

"They asked what the position of the Sadrist movement will be when they come to power. Are they going to reinvent or invoke the Mahdi Army or reemploy them? Are they going to attack American forces in Iraq?" he told Reuters.

Mr Al Sadr's Mahdi militia battled against US forces after they toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, but despite their past they share common grounds.

Washington and Mr Al Sadr agree on their opposition to Iranian influence in Iraq, where it arms, trains and funds Shiite militias and nurtures close ties with many politicians.

More than 15 bloody years since the ouster of Saddam, there is deep scepticism about the country’s political system dominated by an elite seen as corrupt and sectarian.