[JURIST] Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) [official website] on Friday dismissed allegations of election fraud [DPA report] from a member of the European Parliament [official website]. After the March 7 parliamentary elections [JURIST news archive], head of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, Struan Stevenson [official website], reported that he had received a "flood" of complaints about election fraud. He said [press release]:
The issue of fraud and ballot-rigging perpetrated by the Iranian regime and the ruling State of Law coalition is an extremely worrying situation for all political parties in Iraq. Many political leaders and officials who have participated in the elections have revealed such cheating with precise details during numerous interviews with the press and in emails to me and telephone conversations.
In its response, the IHEC called the fraud claims "baseless," but also expressed a willingness to investigate the allegations and take corrective measures if necessary. Also, on Wednesday, the State of Law Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] alleged fraud [JURIST report] and asked the IHEC to conduct a recount. In contrast, UN election observers reported [CSM report] that they have not seen any indicators of large-scale election fraud.
Fraud allegations are the latest in a series of problems plaguing the parliamentary elections. Last month, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 previously banned candidates could stand for election. The Responsibility and Justice Committee had initially ruled that some 500 banned candidates could stand for election despite allegations of ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder]. The decision was characterized by the Iraqi government as illegal, and was reversed [JURIST reports] when the panel acknowledged that it did not have to rule on all 500 candidates at once. Last year, the Iraqi parliament approved [JURIST report] an amended version of a controversial election law after numerous delays. The new version of the law increased the number of seats in parliament from 275 to 325, with 310 of those seats allotted to Iraq's 18 provinces and the remainder reserved for Iraqis living outside the country.