[JURIST] The State of Law Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] on Wednesday asked the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) [official website] to recount ballots cast in the March 7 parliamentary election [JURIST news archive], 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 the rival Iraqiya bloc, led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi. The allegations of fraud come after Iraqiya showed a slight lead [Al Jazeera report] in a partial vote count released earlier this week. Allawi's coalition leads the race with seven out of 18 provinces, but the Iraqiya bloc is close behind, leading in five provinces. The IHEC said that there was no evidence [AP report] to back up the allegations. The election determines the 325 members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website, in Arabic] who will then elect the prime minister and president.
The 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.