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Iraq's Election Watchdog Rejects Calls For Recount


Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (file photo)
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has issued a statement urging a recount in some areas of votes from the country's March 7 parliamentary elections.

The request suggested that ballots be counted anew "to ensure justice and absolute transparency."

But Iraq's Independent High Election Commission rejected the idea, saying final results would be issued on March 26.

"'In every country in the world, a mere suspicion [of a miscount] is not enough; a political entity will call for recounting votes whenever it has doubts and feels that there was a mistake at a polling station," the head of Iraq's Independent High Election Commission, Faraj al-Haidari, said on March 21. "It is impossible to recount the votes of a city or of Iraq as a whole for a mere suspicion. With a manual count, this means we redo the whole election. If you don't believe in the most sophisticated technology for vote counting, how can you believe in an official using a pen and paper to calculate figures?"

The electoral commission has said that it is thoroughly investigating claims of fraud. In at least five cases it has discarded ballots cast at polling stations because of irregularities.

Candidates have three days after the release of final results to launch formal challenges.

Talibani's demand of the commission came one day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged the same commission to respond to demands from several political blocs for a recount.

Maliki had called on the vote watchdog "to respond immediately to the demands of those blocs to preserve the political stability and prevent the security situation from deteriorating and avoid the return of violence," according to Reuters.

The vote count, which is at 93 percent after weeks of counting, revealed a tight race between Maliki's State of Law alliance and the Iraqiya list of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The latest results indicate that Allawi's party was slightly ahead of Maliki's group.

compiled from agency reports