Iraq faces manual ballot recount after reports of widespread fraud in parliament elections

An Iraqi woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote in the country's parliamentary elections in Ramadi, Iraq, on May 12.
(Hadi Mizban / Associated Press)

Iraq’s parliament has voted in favor of a manual ballot recount after allegations of widespread fraud in the country’s recently held parliamentary elections, a lawmaker said, a development that could further prolong the process of forming a new government.

Mohammed Saadoun said lawmakers voted on the bill Wednesday. The vote was an amendment to the country’s election law and also includes cancellation of vote results from balloting abroad and in camps for displaced people in four Sunni-dominated provinces.

“This is meant to correct the election results and bring the political process in Iraq back on track after it was proven that fraud and manipulation of vote results took place,” he said.


Saadoun added that the only ballots that would not be recounted were the votes of minority ethnic groups. The four Sunni-dominated provinces where vote results from balloting in camps for people displaced during the recent war against the Islamic State group would be canceled are Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin and Ninevah.

He said it was unclear when the recount would start and that it would be up to the Supreme Judicial Council to decide on the timing. The council has also been asked to appoint nine judges to supervise the manual recount.

According to Saadoun, 173 lawmakers of the outgoing 328-seat parliament ordered the recount for votes from all polling stations — meaning almost 11 million ballots.

There have been complaints of irregularities in the May 12 balloting in which an electronic voting system was used for the first time. A manual recount of votes in some areas has been called for, a request that has been rejected by the Iraqi election commission as illegal.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider Abadi said a separate commission looking into alleged irregularities in the vote found “unprecedented” violations.

Abadi told his weekly press conference that the commission found “widespread manipulation” and faulted election authorities for “not taking the needed measures or taking wrong ones.”


He said the Cabinet approved the recommendations of the commission, which is made up of the heads of five security and oversight agencies as well as the head of an anti-corruption agency.

Last month’s elections — the fourth held since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion — saw low turnout, reflecting widespread anger at the country’s dysfunctional political class.

Supporters of the populist Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose forces once battled U.S. troops, emerged with the most seats, but would have to form a coalition government with other blocs in a process that could drag on for months. Abadi’s bloc came in third, after a coalition of mostly Shiite paramilitary forces.

The Independent High Electoral Commission, which administered the vote, has denied widespread irregularities and rejected past calls for a manual recount or the cancellation of ballots.

It’s unclear whether a recount would change the outcome of the election. The winners of the election have already begun talks on forming a new government.

Abadi has also called for criminal investigations, and has banned election officials from traveling abroad without his approval.