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Judges limit Iraq vote recount in new twist

© AFP | The machines used in Iraq's May 12 parliamentary election were the focus of allegations of fraud

BAGHDAD (AFP) - 

Judges appointed by Iraq's top court said Sunday they would limit a manual recount of votes in a May parliamentary poll to districts where results were contested, in a new twist to the country's electoral saga.

The recount, demanded by the supreme court, "concerns only polling centres where candidates filed complaints to the High Electoral Commission, or in cases of official reports of suspected fraud in Iraq or abroad," the judges' spokesman, Laith Hamza, said in a statement.

The court ordered a recount on June 21, in line with a decision adopted by parliament in response to allegations of irregularities.

Top judge Medhat al-Mahmud said at the time that all 11 million ballots cast, including those of voters living abroad, displaced persons and security forces, would have to be recounted.

The result was contested -- mainly by the political old guard -- after allegations of fraud in Iraq's first election since the defeat last December of the Islamic State group.

The supreme court, whose rulings are final, also ratified parliament's decision to dismiss Iraq's nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.

The timing of the recount will be set in the presence of representatives of the United Nations, political entities and of the candidates affected, the judges said.

A recount of all votes would have taken weeks, going beyond the June 30 expiry date of the mandate of the incumbent parliament.

Last month's ballot was won by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's joint list with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

The vote, in which electronic voting machines were used in Iraq for the first time, saw a record number of abstentions.

A recount is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by rival lists, according to experts on Iraqi politics, but rather modify the rankings of candidates within the same lists.

© 2018 AFP