March 22, 2010 in Nation/World

Calls for recount growing in Iraq

Rebecca Santana Associated Press

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s president on Sunday demanded a recount in this month’s historic parliamentary elections, intensifying the political conflict over the not-yet-completed tally and increasing the chances that the vote will be a long, chaotic test of the nascent democracy.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition is narrowly trailing in the overall vote tally to one led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, with 95 percent of the vote counted. President Jalal Talabani, whose own coalition is losing to Allawi’s secular alliance in a key province, invoked the power of his office in calling for a recount.

On his official Web site, Talabani demanded that the Independent High Electoral Commission manually recount the ballots to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” about the results. He said he was making the demand “as the president of the state, authorized to preserve the constitution and to ensure justice and absolute transparency.”

Al-Maliki on Saturday called on the election commission to quickly respond to requests from political blocs for a recount.

The commission has rejected such calls, and Iraqi law empowers neither Talabani nor al-Maliki to force the issue. The panel is an independent body appointed by parliament, and submits its results only to the country’s supreme court for ratification.

A recount or a protracted election dispute could complicate the seating of a new government. In Iraq’s fledgling democracy, such periods of political instability have often been accompanied by violence.

Election officials have been handing out results of the March 7 election in piecemeal fashion, creating the appearance of a tallying process in disarray.

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