Iraq Starts Recount From May Vote

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's election commission began on Monday the manual recount for more ballots from parliamentary elections held two months ago that were marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities.

Iraq's May 12 balloting was the country's fourth national elections since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It was also the first vote since the Baghdad government announced the defeat of the Islamic State group.

However, the elections saw the lowest turnout, mainly due to public anger at the political elite.

The partial recount, approved by Iraq's Supreme Court last month, will further complicate the fragile post-elections period and prolong the process of forming a new government. It will include recounting of paper ballots from inside and outside the country.

On Monday, ballot boxes were piled up inside a hall at Baghdad's International Fair under tight security measures. Observers from the United Nations and Iraqi political parties watched as commission employees started the recount.

The ballot boxes are from six Shiite-dominated provinces: Basra, Mayssan, Thi Qar, Muthana, Qadissiya and Wasit.

Judge Essam al-Shaalan, who supervised the process, told The Associated Press that they started first with the Basra boxes. He said it was unclear how long the recount would last.

Last week, the elections commission started the recount for the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk where Turkmen and Arabs groups have accused the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of fraud, allegations the party has denied. No results have been made public yet.

Iraq's populist Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, gained the largest share in the vote, garnering 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament. And an Iran-backed bloc — made up of Shiite militias — came second with 47 seats, followed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's alliance, with 42 seats.

(KA)