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Iraq to begin manual recount of national election votes on July 3

Published: Updated:

Iraq's parliament held its final session Saturday, leaving the country without a national assembly for the first time since 2013 as it awaits a vote recount from May parliamentary polls.

The manual recount was demanded by the supreme court in polling stations with contested results, in line with a decision by the outgoing parliament following allegations of fraud.

Parliament's deputy speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed announced "the end of the third parliamentary mandate", at a gathering attended by 127 members of the 328-seat house.

Since the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had three parliaments each with a mandate of four years.

The last ballot was won by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

Results of the May election were contested mainly by the political old guard.

The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing parliament to dismiss Iraq's nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.

The judges' spokesman, Laith Jabr Hamza, said Saturday that the partial recount would start on Tuesday in the Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, as well as in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar.

Only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud will be recounted, a spokesman for the panel of judges conducting the recount said on Saturday.

"The manual recount will be conducted in the presence of representatives from the United Nations, foreign embassies and political parties; as well as local and international observers, members of the media, and the Ministries of Defence and the Interior," Hamza said in a statement.

In seven provinces where many complaints of fraud were made -- Kirkuk, Sulaimaniya, Erbil, Dohuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar -- the recount will be conducted by the local electoral offices, Hamza said.

Those ballot boxes which had already been transferred to Baghdad will be recounted in the capital.

The recount has been a politically fraught issue with the leaders of winning blocs embroiled in negotiations for weeks over the formation of the next government.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose electoral list came third in the poll marred by a historically low turnout, and the al-Sadr, entered into an alliance last week, less than two weeks after Sadr announced a similar alliance with second-placed Iran ally Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc, thus bringing the top three blocs together.

The recount will exclude Baghdad where a storage site holding half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes went up in flames earlier this month in an incident Prime Minister Abadi described as a "plot to harm the nation and its democracy".

Overseas votes in Iran, Turkey, Britain, Lebanon, Jordan, the United States and Germany will also be recounted, Hamza said.

Earlier in June, the outgoing parliament passed a law mandating a nationwide manual recount of all votes, but the panel of judges now in charge of the process said it would only be conducted for those problematic ballots.