Fraud case in Iraq elections could further delay government formation

Not clear if the case will delay the ratification of the final results by the Supreme Federal Court

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Election squabbling continues in Iraq amid fraud claims filed by several Shiite political parties, including Iran-backed militias, which could further delay the formation of a new government.

Followers of Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr emerged as clear winners in national elections on October 10, in which they won 73 seats in the 329-seat parliament.

The results irritated other Shiite rivals, mainly the Iran-backed Al Fatah Alliance, made up mainly of militias, who won only 17 seats, compared with 45 in 2018.

Al Fatah and other Shiite political parties dismissed the results as fraudulent.

Early this month, the head of Al Fatah Alliance, Hadi Al Amiri, filed a fraud case at the Iraq Federal Supreme Court, demanding that the election result be annulled.

According to the Fatah Alliance, there were many irregularities, including the failure of the electronic voting system to recognise the fingerprint identification of many voters.

The case was opened on Monday and after a procedural hearing the judge adjourned it until December 22.

“Things now will be at standstill in terms of negotiations between the political parties to form the new government,” Hadi Jalo Marie, chairman of the Political Decision think tank in Baghdad, told The National.

It is unclear if the case will delay the ratification of the final results by the same court after sending them by the Independent High Elections Commission early this month.

“The fight today is a fight for gaining more time by those who lost the elections because they know a decision to annul the elections is not possible,” Mr Jalo said.

The Shiite Co-ordination Framework, made up mainly of Al Fatah and State of Law, led by former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, wants more time to reach understandings or form alliances with other players to face Mr Al Sadr, Mr Jalo said.

The Sadrist Bloc is followed by Taqadum party, led by Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi, with 37 seats. State of Law bloc was third with 33 seats.

In an attempt to melt the ice among the country’s Shiite leaders, Mr Al Amiri hosted a meeting this month that brought Mr Al Sadr face to face with his rivals. No agreement was reached in the meeting and all parties emerged adamant on their demands.

The meeting came weeks after an escalation in tensions that led to skirmishes between Shiite militia supporters, in which two militiamen were killed and more than 100 wounded, including security personnel.

A few days later, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi survived an assassination attempt carried out by a drone. No group claimed responsibility for the attack and the investigation is still ongoing.

“Since the political situation is fragile we should expect anything,” Mr Jalo said.

The elections were originally scheduled to be held in May 2022 but were brought forward to quell public anger at the government’s lack of action to meet the demands of pro-reform protesters.

Updated: December 14, 2021, 2:20 PM