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Iraq's manual recount brings little change to election results

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

AMMAN, Jordan -- Three months after Iraq's parliamentary elections, the long-awaited results of a recount are in, and the faction allied with Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a once implacable U.S. foe turned nationalist leader, is still in the lead.

Al-Sadr's bloc, known as Sairoon, which means "marching to reform," kept all of its 54 seats.

The Conquest Alliance, a coalition of paramilitary groups with varying degrees of allegiance to Iran, remained in second place but picked up one seat, bringing its total to 48. That came at the expense of a bloc led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Its total fell to 42.

The results, released Friday by the Independent High Electoral Commission, still must be ratified by the Supreme Court. Once that is done, the current president, Fuad Masum, will have 90 days to convene parliament to elect a new speaker, president and prime minister and then form a Cabinet.

Though al-Sadr remains the winner, his bloc holds too few seats to form a government on its own. That requires the backing of at least 165 members of the Council of Representatives -- or more than half of the 329 legislators.

The election was held May 12. Parliament ordered the manual recount in response to concerns about the voting system, which used machines to read ballots digitally linked to each voter's ID registration card and fingerprint.

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Many voters and political parties complained of machines breaking down and alleged wide-scale fraud, especially in the multiethnic city of Kirkuk and the Kurdish province of Sulaymaniya.

The results remained the same in 13 of the country's 18 provinces.

Also unchanged was voter turnout, which remained at 44.5 percent, the lowest participation since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The dismal participation was widely viewed as a mass rejection of the country's almost comically corrupt political class, which, despite Iraq's oil riches, has not been able to provide reliable services for the last 15 years.

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