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Iraq election officials reject calls for recount on fraud allegations

[JURIST] Iraqi election officials on Sunday rejected allegations of fraud and calls for a recount of the ballots from the March 7 parliamentary election [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Despite the demands for a recount [statement, in Arabic] Saturday by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile], which described the recount as necessary "to preserve political stability and stave off ... the resurgence of violence," an Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] official stated [BBC report] that a total recount of the ballots would not be feasible, and is not necessary, due to checks against fraud. Calls for a recount come amid a close election result between Maliki's Shi'ite dominated State of Law [official website] coalition, and their primary rival, former prime minister Iyad Allawi [official website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile] and his cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition. With 95 percent of the vote counted on Sunday, Allawi maintained a lead [Reuters report] of around 11,000 votes over Maliki, with the full vote count to be announced Friday. In response to the recount demands, an Iraqiya spokesperson stated [Al Jazeera report] that a recount would delay the election results for months, negatively affecting the security situation. The close election result has prompted observers to predict that neither party will gain a majority of the 325-seat parliament, leading to possibly months of negotiations to form a government. Also on Sunday, a protest broke out in support of Maliki's recount demands in the city of Najaf, where 300 demonstrators gathered near the provincial government building.

The IHEC on Friday dismissed allegations of election fraud [JURIST report] from a member of the European Parliament [official website]. On Wednesday, The State of Law coalition first asked the IHEC for a recount [JURIST report], alleging fraud. State of Law spokesperson Ali Al Adib claimed that the ballots were manipulated [AP report] by the manager of an electronic counting center who is allegedly linked to Iraqiya. The allegations came after Iraqiya began to take a slight lead [Al Jazeera report] in a partial vote count released earlier this week. The IHEC said that there was no evidence [AP report] to back up the allegations. The fraud allegations are the latest in a series of problems plaguing the elections. Last month, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] could stand in the election. The initial ban 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.

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