Amid fears that the results of Saturday's elections could trigger violence, Iraqi Deputy PM Rafaa al-Issawi called for a vote recount in the Sunni-dominated western Iraqi province of Anbar following allegations of vote fraud.
AFP - Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rafaa al-Issawi on Wednesday called for election ballots to be recounted in the former rebel stronghold of Anbar after allegations of vote fraud.
Complaints of cheating among rival parties in Saturday's provincial elections have threatened to boil over into violence in Anbar, the Sunni Arab-dominated province and former centre of a fierce anti-US insurgency.
"We demand a recount of the votes and to bring to justice the people who committed fraud," Issawi said in the regional capital of Ramadi after meeting with Sunni tribal leaders.
Sheikh Ahmed Abboud, a tribal leader in Anbar, told AFP that ballots have already been returned from Baghdad to Ramadi on Wednesday, strongly suggesting that a recount will take place.
"They are now under the control of the army," Abboud said.
Officials at the Iraq High Electoral Commission were not immediately available to comment.
Results from Saturday's poll in 14 Iraqi provinces are due to be announced on Thursday.
Following the election, there have been allegations of election irregularities in many provinces, but the complaints in Anbar took a graver turn when some heavily-armed tribes threatened violence.
Issawi is a member of the Concord Front, the main Sunni party in Iraq's parliament.
Official figures from the polls have yet to be released, but the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group which holds seats in the national parliament, said unofficial tallies showed it would retain control of the province.
The claims triggered immediate accusations of fraud from tribesmen, many of whom are leaders of the Sahwa, or Awakening, militias which have helped the US military battle Al-Qaeda in the province.
The stakes are particularly high in Anbar where a greater majority of Sunni parties did not participate in the 2005 election and many have high hopes of winning seats this time round.
At the close of Wednesday's meeting, participants agreed to ban the use of weapons to prevent the possibility of disagreements spiralling into violence, but the allegations of cheating appear unresolved.
Salah al-Mutlak, a member of parliament and chief of the National Dialogue Front, a Sunni bloc in parliament, said that while people should act rationally the vote had been tainted.
"Most of the competing lists in the provincial election in Anbar accused the Islamic Party of manipulating the election results," said Mutlak, who backed Iraqi National Project list in the provincial elections.
"We do not accept that the commission may cancel one ballot or another. Fraud exists and what we ignoring is its magnitude because the election commission is in the hands of the Islamic Party."
He further accused the Anbar elections commission chief of being member of the Islamic Party and having manipulated the results from each polling centre.
Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, a tribal chief who leads the Sahwa militia, said he believes that a lot of evidence shows the Islamic Party had committed fraud.
"Our proof is the result which was certified by the chief of each polling station, which was then sent to the president of the provincial election," he said.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood movement, is headed by Iraqi vice president Tareq al-Hashemi. The party took control of two of three Sunni province -- Anbar and Salaheddin -- in the 2005 elections.
Date created : 2009-02-04