A manual recount of Iraq’s May parliamentary vote has yielded similar results, with Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr‘s joint list retaining its lead with 54 seats.
Iraq‘s Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC) released the manual recount’s results on Friday, which it said corresponded to the initial results in 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Friday’s announcement confirmed Sadr’s bloc, Sairoon, keeping its initial tally of 54 seats out of 329. The Iran-affiliated al-Fatih alliance, which is led by Hadi al-Amiri, won an additional seat, taking their presence in Iraq’s future parliament from 47 to 48.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi‘s al-Nasr bloc for its part remained in third place with 42 seats. Other changes were confined to a handful of alterations to the standings of candidates within party lists.
Forming the next government
The winning parties are still embroiled in negotiations over forming the next governing coalition three months after the vote, with no sign of an imminent conclusion.
The political uncertainty over the makeup of the new government has raised tensions at a time when public impatience is growing over poor basic services, unemployment and the slow pace of rebuilding after a three-year war with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.
Al-Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new one is formed.
Meanwhile, al-Sadr has already signed a coalition agreement with al-Hikma, another Shia bloc led by Ammar al-Hakim which will stay on 19 seats after the recount, and the secular outgoing vice president, Iyad Allawi, whose list comprised largely Sunnis and secured 21 seats.
Al-Sadr threatened on Friday, however, to place his bloc in opposition, rather than form a government, if other parties refuse to back 40 demands that he has made “for the political process to move in the right direction”.
These include rejecting sectarian quotas, refusing to hand government portfolios to previous office holders, denying posts to MPs with dual nationality and expelling corrupt officials.
Anger is mounting in the country where frequent protests have been taking place in recent weeks, particularly in the predominantly Shia southern provinces where Iraq’s top Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed sympathy for the demonstrators.
Deterioration in electricity sector
Regular power cuts in the oil-rich nation mean there has been little respite from sweltering summer temperatures and with the national grid providing just a few hours of electricity each day, many Iraqis are forced to pay to use generators through the private sector.
Corruption is also seen as a big problem in a country where citizens say they fail to benefit from the country’s enormous hydrocarbon riches.
Officially $40bn has been allocated to the power sector over the past 15 years, but a substantial slice has been siphoned off by corrupt politicians and businessmen who have fronted fake contracts.
In an attempt to quell public anger after more than a month of demonstrations – and with protests still springing up in the south – al-Abadi sacked four directors in the electricity ministry on Tuesday and moved a number of others.
The decision followed the dismissal last month of electricity minister Qassem al-Fahdawi “because of the deterioration in the electricity sector”, the prime minister’s office said at the time.
The results announced on Friday can be contested by parties and still have to be ratified by Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court in order to become final.
When the court ratifies the result, a 90-day timeline for the formation of government spelled out in the constitution kicks in. Legislators will gather to elect a speaker, then president, and finally a prime minister and their cabinet.
Negotiations are still expected to drag on, however, as the winning parties – who have competing interests and varying views on issues ranging from US and Iranian influence on government to the integration of militias into the formal security apparatus – try and edge forward in Iraq’s complex system of government formation based on coalition building.