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Iraq election: Baghdad recount begins with a hitch

Iraqi officials today began a manual recount of 20 percent of the Iraq election ballots cast in the March 7 parliamentary race. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried also to get an audit – a comparison of every ballot and every voter's signature.

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent / May 3, 2010

Electoral workers are seen with ballot boxes as votes in the March 7 national election are re-counted in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP

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Baghdad, Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition Monday tried to throw another wrench into the slow-moving Iraq election process by calling for an audit in addition to a manual recount of votes from the March 7 parliamentary elections.

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Just hours into the start of a recount expected to take up to two weeks, officials from Mr. Maliki’s State of Law coalition moved to try to force the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to examine the voter records and check voters’ signatures against their ballots in addition to re-checking more than 2 million votes. The IHEC quickly rejected Maliki's newest complaint.

The recount has been widely seen as an attempt by Maliki to delay certification of election results that gave his slate two fewer parliamentary seats than leading coalition Iraqiya and weakened his chances of heading a coalition government. Both the United States and the United Nations said the voting process had been credible.

“US, the UN and many other organizations which sent observers to the elections…all attested to an election that was free of widespread systemic fraud,” Gary Grappo, former ambassador to Oman and current political counselor to the US Embassy in Baghdad, told reporters Sunday. “We still believe in that, therefore we would not expect there to be a significant change with respect to this recount.”

Votes across the country were split between four major political blocs, which must now decide how to form a coalition of at least 163 seats in the 325-seat parliament.

Election officials and hundreds of election workers were watched over by international observers gathered in the government-owned Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad’s Green Zone early Monday as ballot boxes were brought under tight security from warehouses to be inspected for signs of tampering. The ballots were dumped on tables in a ballroom and the counting began.

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