The recount of votes cast in Baghdad province during the March 7 parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will be delayed a week, according to an official on Monday. The Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] will not begin the recount [Reuters report] until the review panel ordering the recount defines more precisely what a recount entails. Iyad Allawi [personal website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile], whose Iraqiya coalition garnered a slim two-seat lead over the State of Law [official website] coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic], threatened to reject the recount [NPR report] if it only includes Baghdad. Also on Monday, an IHEC review panel nullified [AP report] the votes of 52 candidates for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder], including two candidates that had won seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website], at least one of which coming from Iraqiya. The uncertainty over the election results has jeopardized the US plan for withdrawal of combat troops by August, and has prompted the Obama administration to propose a coalition government [Independent report] between Maliki and Allawi, where each would hold the premiership for two years.
The IHEC ordered a manual recount [JURIST report] of the ballots in Baghdad last week, following fraud allegations. The election commissioner for the IHEC informed the public that the Baghdad recount would begin immediately [Al Jazeera report], citing manipulation in voting stations. The State of Law coalition alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition held a slight lead. In February, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to the Baath Party 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. This came as a reversal of a previous decision, where it held [WSJ report] that the candidates could stand in the coming elections, but would have to be cleared of the allegations against them before taking office.