Baghdad (Reuters) – Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr retained his lead in Iraq's May general election. The results of a nationwide recounting on Friday showed a key role in the formation of the country's next government.
FILE PHOTO – Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc first came, meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose political bloc will vote in a May general election in Najaf, Iraq, on 23 June 201
The Independent High Election Commission of Iraq (IHEC) published the results of the report on Friday on its website. Parliament ordered the recount in June after the widespread fraud allegations cast doubt on the integrity of the vote.
The IHEC said the results of the recount met the first results of 13 of the 18 Iraqi provinces.
The victorious parties are still involved in negotiations on the formation of the next governing coalition three months after the vote, without any immediate conclusion being expected.
The recount did not significantly change the initial results, as Sadr had 54 counters.
A group of Shiite militia leaders backed by Iran remained in second place behind Sadr's block, but received an additional seat that increased them to 48 points. Acting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's block was still in third place with 42 seats.
Abadi, who is seeking a second term, directs a fragile transitional government until a new one forms.
Political uncertainty over the composition of the new government has triggered tensions at a time when public impatience over poor primary services, unemployment and slow reconstruction is growing after a three-year war with the militant group of the Islamic State.
The anger rises with frequent protests supported by the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and taking place in the Shiite southern provinces.
Sadr, who also supports the protests, has published a list of 40 terms of which he says the new prime minister must meet, including political independence and not for reelection, so that his bloc joins a coalition government He would be in opposition go if the conditions are not met.
Manual recounting has been politically controversial from the start, though it has never been expected that the results will be greatly altered.
The IHEC said on Monday that it had completed the recount, but was forced to cancel the process in the capital, Baghdad, because the election documents had been destroyed by a camp fire two months ago.
The fire broke out hours after the parliamentary enumeration and suspended the leadership of the Electoral Commission and replaced it with a panel of judges after a government report concluded that there were serious violations in an initial census using a panel of judges electronic vote counting system gave.
The digitized system should help to regulate and speed up the counting of votes. However, critics have argued that the tabulation system in electronic voting machines used for the first time was not secure enough to manipulate.
The IHEC ignored the warnings of an anti-corruption bureau about the credibility of the electronic machines used in the elections, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The equipment provided by the South Korean company Miru Systems under an agreement with the IHEC is at the heart of fraud allegations that led to manual recounting.
Concern over electoral outcomes focuses on discrepancies in vote counting of voting machines, particularly in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya and the ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk, as well as suggestions that the equipment could be manipulated or hacked to distort the outcome.
The United Nations had initially expressed concerns over irregularities in voting, notably in Kirkuk, which helped trigger the recount.
The first results were denied by the Turkmen and Arab communities of the region, which is also inhabited by a large Kurdish population.
However, the recount results showed no changes in Kirkuk and very limited changes in Sulaimaniya.
The results announced on Friday may be challenged by parties and still need to be ratified by the Supreme Court of Iraq to become final.
When the court ratifies the result, a 90-day timetable for forming the government prevails in the constitution. Lawmakers will gather to elect a spokesman, then president, and finally a prime minister and her cabinet.
The position of the speaker is usually reserved for a Sunni Arab, the most ceremonial presidency of a Kurd, and the powerful PM always approaches the Shiite majority in Iraq.
However, negotiations are still expected to continue as the victorious parties – the competing interests and different views on issues ranging from US and Iranian influence on the government to the integration of militias in the formal Security apparatus – try and move forward in Iraq's complex system of government formation based on coalition building.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Mohamed el Sherif in CAIRO; Edited by G. Crosse, Toni Reinhold, Paul Tait and Michael Perry