Iraq faces political deadlock as election results formally challenged

Popular cleric Moqtada Al Sadr still in lead with 73 seats

Employees of Iraq's electoral commission count votes polled in the October 10 parliamentary elections in Baghdad's Green Zone area.  AFP
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A group of prominent Shiite political parties has mounted a formal challenge to Iraq's national election results.

Former prime ministers Nouri Al Maliki and Haider Al Abadi, along with paramilitary leader Hadi Al Amiri and Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim, have combined to form the Shiite Co-ordination Framework.

The rivals have set their differences aside to submit a report on what they allege is electoral fraud to the country's electoral body, the Independent High Election Commission.

The final turnout for last week's elections in Iraq has been revised up to 43 per cent, the country's electoral body said on Sunday after tallying all the results and confirming major wins for popular cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.

Last week, the electoral commission said that early results showed turnout at only 41 per cent when Iraqis headed to the polls to vote for a new parliament. The final figurers show that a little over 9.6 million people cast their ballots in the October 10 poll.

Both early and final turnout figures are down on the last election in 2018, during which 44.5 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

A number of challenges to the results will be heard before the supreme court can certify the results.

“We have set 10 days to hear appeals and now the final results of the elections must be approved by the supreme court,” the commission said.

Appeals of the results must be lodged by Thursday, it said.

“The election was set in fair conditions according to Iraqi testimonies of parties and observers,” the commission said.

The Shiite Co-ordination Framework rejected IHEC's findings.

“We hoped IHEC would remedy its mistakes during and after the vote count. We announce our complete rejection of these results and hold IHEC fully responsible for the failure of the electoral process,” it said.

On Sunday, small protests broke out in Basra, Wasit and Baghdad after the Resistance Coordination Committee, which is linked to Iran-backed militias, called for demonstrations.

Mr Al Sadr appears to have made the largest gains and is on course to lead the largest party in parliament, winning 73 seats in the 329-member assembly. This puts him in pole position to nominate the prime minister and take the lion’s share of Cabinet positions.

Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi’s Taqadum party came second, with 37 seats, while former prime minister Mr Al Maliki’s State of Law bloc was third, with about 35.

The commission said that at least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates were competing for 329 seats in the country's parliament.

Late on Saturday, Mr Al Sadr said his movement secured the biggest number of seats and he would not challenge the results.

“We will seek to form a non-sectarian and non-ethnic national coalition under the umbrella of reform,” said Mr Sadr, who opposes all foreign interference and whose main rivals are Iran-allied groups.

Last year, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi called an early general election for June 2021, months before the planned date.

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.

Updated: October 17, 2021, 4:28 PM