[JURIST] The Iraqi Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] on Monday ordered a manual recount of Baghdad province ballots cast in the March 7 parliamentary elections [JURIST news archive], 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 ruling State of Law [official website] coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition of former prime minister Iyad Allawi [official website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile] held a slight lead. The results of the election are expected to have a significant role [AFP report] in the direction of the Iraqi government, as the two main factions strive for control.
Soon after the fraud allegations were first made last month, Iraqi election officials rejected [JURIST report] the allegations and calls for a recount. Previously, the commission dismissed allegations of election fraud [JURIST report] from a member of the European Parliament [official website]. The fraud allegations are the latest in a series of problems plaguing the elections. In February, 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.