Iraqi prime minister calls for vote recount

BAGHDAD: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, locked in a tight battle with his main rival to form Iraq’s next government, called today for a manual recount of votes cast in the country’s March 7 polls.

His demand was immediately slammed as a “clear threat” against the election commission by the Iraqiya bloc that is neck-and-neck with the incumbent’s State of Law Alliance in the race to be the biggest grouping in parliament.

Results from the election, the second since Saddam Hussein was ousted in the US-led invasion of 2003, come less than six months before the United States is due to withdraw all of its combat troops from Iraq.

Latest figures from Iraq’s election commission and based on 92 per cent of ballots cast show State of Law trailing Iraqiya, led by secular ex-premier Iyad Allawi, by less than 8,000 votes nationwide.

In a statement, Maliki called on Iraq’s election commission to “immediately answer the demands of political parties to proceed with a manual recount” which he said would “protect political stability ... and prevent a return to violence.”

The statement, which pointedly noted that Maliki remained head of the country’s armed forces, did not specify whether he wanted a nationwide recount, or only in particular provinces.

The statement differs markedly from Maliki’s own comments just a week ago, when he said election complaints “cannot affect the results.”

Maliki advisor Ali al-Mussawi said the count had been proceeding properly until two-thirds of votes were tabulated, at which point “numbers were jumping illogically.”

“We cannot give up and this (a manual recount) is the simplest measure that can be taken.”

Hundreds of people demonstrated in the holy Shiite city of Najaf on today in support of the premier’s demands. Maliki’s remarks were denounced by senior Iraqiya candidate Intisar Allawi, a relative of the bloc’s leader, who described them as a “clear threat against the commission”.

Poll body puts its foot down

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s electoral commission rejected a call by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for a manual recount of votes cast in the country’s March 7 polls, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari told AFP on Sunday. “We have provided all political entities with CDs with the results of counting at the political centres, after thorough checks on our part,” Haidari said, adding that a manual recount would take “too long.” “If they have doubts and think that there are errors, they can ask us to hold recounts at particular centres, but not across all of Iraq.”