Iraq’s Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed a manual recount of all ballots from last month’s national elections, but rejected the invalidation of ballots from abroad and from voters displaced by recent conflict.
Authorities have been struggling to address allegations raised by underperforming parties that the May vote was marred by fraud.
The court ruling concerned a law passed by Parliament that mandated a full, manual recount of the vote, and ordered other measures that President Fuad Masum and the national elections commission described as political interference. Two-thirds of Parliament’s current members lost their seats in the May polls, or did not stand for re-election.
A warehouse storing ballots from eastern Baghdad was burned down days after the Parliament filed the legislation. Outgoing Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri called it arson and said the fire was set to cover up fraud.
Poll panel replaced
The Supreme Court said the legislation was broadly constitutional and endorsed the order to replace the Independent Elections Commission with a panel of nine judges to supervise the recount of around eleven million votes. The commission, deflecting allegations of fraud, refused to conduct one of its own.
But the court rejected the mass invalidation of the expatriate and displaced persons vote, and the armed services vote in the country’s Kurdish governorates. Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud said the sweeping measure was unjust to voters who cast legitimate ballots.
Iraqis displaced population, mostly driven from their homes during battles against the ISIS, is presumed to be overwhelmingly Sunni, and international groups urged authorities to take measures to ensure they could vote. The perception that Sunni-majority northern Iraq was being marginalized by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad was seen as a key to fueling ISIS group’s insurgency earlier this decade.
Still, a hand recount is unlikely to dispel allegations of fraud.
Ahmad al-Abadi, a lawyer representing Parliament’s case to the Supreme Court, said it would be impossible to have a completely accurate picture of the results, but said a recount would get the country “seventy, eighty, ninety percent” of the way there.
The Interior Ministry said the Baghdad warehouse blaze earlier this month was confined to a storage unit containing the electronic machinery introduced in this election to speed up the vote count and protect against ballot stuffing. A ministry spokesman said the ballots were secured, contradicting eyewitness reports that many were charred.