An alliance headed by prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has been declared as having received the largest number of seats in Iraq’s elections last month, but many of his political opponents doubt the vote’s fairness and claim massive fraud. If proved, the allegations of irregularities and vote-rigging will cast shadows over the legitimacy of the new parliament elected on 30 April and may further worsen the decade-long political ructions and sectarian violence that have been largely blamed on the nation’s political class. Iraq’s Independent Higher Election Commission (IHEC) announced on Monday that al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance had won 92 out of 328 parliamentary seats. His main rivals finished with between nine and 34 seats overall. Smaller blocs received between one and six seats. A potential new prime minister would need the support of a total of 165 members. Negotiations to build a coalition to form a new government will likely drag on for weeks, if not months, observers say.
Braving the daily bombings that have scattered his 12 grandsons across Europe, Jawad Said Kamal al-Din, 91, hobbled to a Baghdad polling station on Wednesday to vote for “change”. At a VIP polling station in the capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where reporters and photographers far outnumbered voters, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki proclaimed “certain” victory as he cast his ballot. But at the west Baghdad primary school where Kamal al-Din cast his vote, he and others queueing were adamant they wanted change after eight years of Maliki’s rule. They accused the premier of doing little to improve public services, curb rampant corruption or tackle the country’s worst violence in years. The threat of car bombs prompted authorities to impose a polling day ban on all vehicle traffic in and around the capital, forcing voters to walk to the polls.
The board of Iraq’s electoral commission resigned en masse on Tuesday in protest at political and judicial “interference,” throwing a general election due next month into disarray. The sudden decision comes with doubts already swirling over whether the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) could organize polling nationwide on April 30 with anti-government fighters in control of a city on Baghdad’s doorstep. Much is at stake in the election, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bids for a third term with his security credentials thrown into question by a surge in violence to levels not seen since 2008. The nine-member IHEC board handed in its resignation in protest at what it said were conflicting rulings from parliament and the judiciary on the barring of would-be candidates for the election.
Election officials began tallying votes on Sunday from Iraq’s first elections since US troops departed, a contest that served as a key test of its stability amid a spike in violence. Attacks killed three people on election day, a fraction of those who died in a wave of violence preceding the polls on Saturday, which seemed generally well-organised. Turnout for the provincial vote was about 51 percent, according to officials from Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission. IHEC board member Gaata al-Zobaie said ballot boxes and tallies from polling stations were being sent to Baghdad, and they would be entered in computers to tabulate the results. But the credibility of the elections came into question, as 14 candidates died in attacks ahead of the polls and with a third of Iraq’s provinces – all of them mainly Sunni Arab or Kurdish – not voting due to security concerns and political disputes.
In making the optimistic case for the development of democracy here, American officials typically point to the 2010 parliamentary elections, which were judged largely free and fair by international monitors including the United Nations. But with the arrest of the head of Iraq’s election commission, the prospect for fair elections has been thrown into question. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, center, in March. He has been seeking to consolidate control over the electoral commission. Faraj al-Haidari, chief of the Independent High Electoral Commission, spent most of the weekend in a jail cell after being arrested on corruption charges on Thursday. He was released on Sunday afternoon after posting bail of $12,500.
Iraq: Political factions accuse Prime Minister of ‘dictatorship’ after arrest of election official | Al-Arabiya
Key political factions accused the premier of moving towards a dictatorship with the arrest of Iraq’s electoral commission chief, a charge the prime minister denied on Saturday. Faraj al-Haidari, head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), was detained on Thursday for alleged corruption along with another of the body’s members, Karim al-Tamimi. Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr accused Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of being behind the arrests to obstruct the electoral process, joining other key Iraqi political actors who have made the same charge. “The one who ordered the arrest is, to be precise, brother Nuri al-Maliki,” Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.