Iraq’s electoral commission said on Tuesday it would not meet a deadline to announce final results from the national poll held two days earlier.
Independent High Electoral Commission officials said they needed more time to manually count unopened ballot boxes in all governorates, to ensure the election was free and fair.
“There are 3,177 outstanding ballot boxes that were not included in the initial results and will be manually counted,” Judge Jalil Adnan, IHEC’s chairman, said in Baghdad.
The boxes will be counted at the Iraqi capital’s National Centre in the presence of international observers and the media. They are estimated to contain about 60,000 votes in total.
Mr Adnan said the initial results, announced on Monday, were in for 94 per cent of polling stations.
Results from the remaining 6 per cent, and the complaints process, could yet change the overall results.
The commission has given the public, candidates and political parties until Thursday to submit any complaints for investigation.
On Tuesday, pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim parties and armed groups denounced the early poll results as “manipulation” and a “scam”.
The boxes will be counted by hand because “the data did not show a consistent result from each box or there were technical issues”, Sajad Jiyad, an Iraqi researcher with the Century Foundation think tank, told The National.
“If accurate, then this could affect a few seats but not the results in general,” Mr Jiyad said.
But the delay invites suspicions of “something untoward occurring” in an already fragile process with a low turnout, Mr Jiyad said.
“Already, some parties claim there has been fraud and used the delay to back up their claim that IHEC is not being honest,” he said.
By the latest count, the Sadrist bloc, led by populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, was leading with 73 seats in the 329-member assembly, putting it in pole position to nominate the prime minister and take the lion’s share of Cabinet positions.
Last year, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi called an early general election for June 2021, months ahead of the date planned initially.
The decision was in response to demands from anti-government protesters, who since 2019 have staged months of mass demonstrations and been killed by the hundreds by both government forces and militia groups.