Iraq set for election recount


Associated Press

BAGHDAD

Iraq’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a disputed law ordering a hand recount of the ballots from last month’s national elections after widespread allegations of fraud embarrassed political leaders and marred the initial result.

What was supposed to mark the start of a new era for Iraq has turned into a political crisis as the charges of vote tampering grew too loud for Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s government to ignore.

The May 12 election was the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group, which was in control of one-third of Iraqi territory just three years ago. But the euphoria over that milestone was quickly overshadowed by the charges of voter irregularities that surfaced on the day of the election and grew louder in the weeks that followed.

Adding to the outcry was a suspicious fire days after Parliament ordered the recount that burned down a warehouse believed to contain some of the ballots cast by Baghdad voters.

The Interior Ministry said the June 10 blaze was confined to a storage unit holding the electronic machinery introduced in the election to speed up the vote count and protect against ballot stuffing, and insisted the ballots were secure. But eyewitness reports said some ballots were charred and others soaked as firefighters battled the blaze.

A hand recount of all 11 million ballots could take weeks, if not longer, and promises to delay the already sluggish process of forming a new government.

Still, the populist preacher Muqtada al-Sadr, who came in a surprise first place in the vote, called on his supporters to respect the recount ruling.

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