BAGHDAD – In an embarrassing rejection of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to overturn his rival’s lead in March’s inconclusive Iraqi parliamentary election, a laborious manual recount of votes in Baghdad has turned up no evidence of electoral fraud and will not change the final outcome, officials said Friday.
The recount was ordered nearly a month ago after al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated electoral slate alleged that as many as 750,000 ballots had been manipulated, with the worst violations occurring in Baghdad.
Had the allegations been upheld, the recount could have eroded the two-seat lead of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite supported by Sunni Arabs who is claiming the right to form the next government as the head of the largest bloc.
But the election commission announced that the completed recount of Baghdad’s 2.5 million votes had found no fraud. The overall result gave 91 seats in the 325-member parliament to Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc and 89 to al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition.
Frustrated U.S. officials have wanted a new government in place by the end of August, when the American military is due to complete its withdrawal of nearly 50,000 combat troops.