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Iraq's manual recount brings little change to election results

Iraq's manual recount brings little change to election results
The bloc allied with Muqtada Sadr, shown here in 2014, still holds 54 seats in parliament after the election recount, the most of any faction. (Jaber al-Helo / Associated Press)

Three months after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, the long-awaited results of a recount are in, and the faction allied with Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr, a once implacable U.S. foe turned nationalist leader, is still in the lead.

Sadr’s bloc, known as Sairoon, which means “marching to reform,” kept all of its 54 seats.

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The Conquest Alliance, a coalition of paramilitary groups with varying degrees of allegiance to Iran, remained in second place but picked up one seat, bringing its total to 48. That came at the expense of a bloc led by Prime Minister Haidar Abadi. Its total fell to 42.

The results, released Friday by the Independent High Electoral Commission, still must be ratified by the Supreme Court. Once that is done, the the current president, Fuad Masum, will have 90 days to convene parliament to elect a new speaker, president and prime minister and then form a Cabinet.

Though Sadr remains the winner, his bloc holds too few seats to form a government on its own. That requires the backing of at least 165 members of the Council of Representatives — or more than half of the 329 legislators.

The election was held May 12. Parliament ordered the manual recount in response to concerns about the voting system, which used machines to read ballots digitally linked to each voter’s ID registration card and fingerprint.

Many voters and political parties complained of machines breaking down and alleged wide-scale fraud, especially in the multiethnic city of Kirkuk and the Kurdish province of Sulaymaniya.

The results remained the same in 13 of the country’s 18 provinces.

Also unchanged was voter turnout, which remained at 44.5%, the lowest participation since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The dismal participation was widely viewed as a mass rejection of the country’s almost comically corrupt political class, which, despite Iraq’s oil riches, has not been able to provide reliable services for the last 15 years.

The lack of electricity, chronic water shortages and high unemployment were particularly galling in the southern city of Basra, which supplies most of Iraq’s oil but according to its residents enjoys none of its privileges.

With temperatures reaching as high as 120 degrees, residents there took to the streets last month, sparking a wave of protests that have spread to major cities, including the capital, Baghdad.

The demonstrations have been damaging for Abadi. Though his bloc finished in third place, he has been trying to amass support for a unity government that would keep him in office for a second term.

Abadi dismissed the electricity minister last month, and this week he sacked four directors from the ministry. Still, protests continued Friday.

Sadr, meanwhile, released a list of 40 demands that he said would counter the “deep state” that sought to reassert the “hegemony of corrupt political forces” by barring officials previously in power from the government. Legislators with dual nationality would also be blocked from taking office.

If his demands were not met, he said, he would take the course of “political opposition and constructive populism,” insisting he would “safeguard protesters.”

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