[JURIST] Spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) [official website] Qassim al-Aboudi announced Friday that the completed recount of votes cast in the March 7 parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] showed no signs of fraud or major irregularities. The official tally [Reuters report] after the 11-day recount of 2.5 million ballots will be announced Monday. After the original count, the Iraqiya coalition of Iyad Allawi [personal website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile] 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]. After alleging fraud [JURIST report], Al-Maliki said that the recount challenge was meant to show the credibility of the Iraq's election system and strengthen the confidence of voters.
Last month, the IHEC ordered a manual recount of the ballots in Baghdad, where 68 seats of the 325-seat parliament were up for election, but did not begin the recount [JURIST reports] until the review panel defined more precisely what a recount entailed. Earlier in April, an IHEC review panel nullified 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. 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 that the candidates could stand in the coming elections, but would have to be cleared of the allegations against them before taking office.