Iraq’s parliament has ordered a full recount of the country’s recent parliamentary election that resulted in a shock victory for Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
The country’s outgoing 328-seat parliament voted in favour of a manual recount of all 11 million ballots from the May 12 poll in response to charges of electoral fraud.
MPs also sacked a nine-member independent electoral commission that oversaw the process and replaced the body with judges.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Baghdad, said several districts had complained about the result when preliminary numbers first began trickling in on May 12 and May 13.
“Complaints had been raised by a number of parties from across the country in the day after the vote. We heard dissatisfaction from areas in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), and the predominantly Sunni provinces of Anbar, Salah al-Din and Diyala,” he said.
“But everything really seemed to kick in yesterday when Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi endorsed the findings and the recommendation of a ministerial committee and alleged that there were ‘dangerous violations’ in the election.
Al-Abadi blamed electronic vote counting devices used by the IHEC, which he said had been used without prior inspection for errors.
According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines – used for the first time in Iraqi elections – produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.
A rebuke to the elites
The May 12 vote saw Muqtada al-Sadr’s electoral alliance emerge victorious, coming ahead of Iran-aligned Shia parties that took the lead in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
Despite entering the election as the apparent frontrunner, al-Abadi’s al-Nasr coalition faltered in the poll, coming in third with only 42 seats.
Pointing to widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, al-Sadr’s Sairoon coalition managed to win 54 out of 328 seats.
His bloc’s performance represented a rebuke to political elites that some voters blame for widespread corruption and dysfunctional governance.
The Sairoon coalition promised to help the poor and build schools and hospitals, which were battered in the war against ISIL, and fiercely opposed any foreign interference in Iraq – whether Iranian or US.
Before the election, Iran had publicly stated it would not allow al-Sadr’s bloc to govern.
Al-Sadr himself cannot become prime minister as he did not run in the election, but his bloc’s victory puts him in a position to have a strong say in negotiations over the future government.
The formation of a new government is expected to drag on for months as no alliance won the 165 seats required for an outright majority.
Until a new prime minister is chosen, al-Abadi will remain in office and retain all his powers.