Leading Iraqi politicians announced on 21 December that they would launch their own investigation into allegations of election fraud in the 15 December parliamentary elections. The announcement followed word from the Iraqi Independent Election Commission (IECI) that some 1,200 complaints have been filed with the commission.
Electoral officials originally downplayed reports of alleged voter fraud, telling the media that the majority of complaints were minor and would have no impact on the final vote count.
As the week wore on and political parties became increasingly vocal in their criticism of the IECI's performance, the commission announced it would delay releasing the final results of the election until after a full investigation into the complaints has been completed.
The Iraqi National List and the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front have been the most critical of the electoral process. The groups alleged that vote rigging took place in some polling centers, and implied that in some voting districts, the IECI helped skew election results in favor of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
The IECI responded that the complaints were the work of parties who were bitter over their poor performance in the election. IECI head Husayn al-Hindawi told reporters on 20 December that the majority of complaints were "politically motivated."
On 21 December, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party, which is part of the Iraqi National List, sponsored a meeting for political forces opposed to the election results. Some 24 parties attended the meeting and announced at a press briefing afterward that they would form committees to compile a list of grievances, which would be presented to the IECI, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab League (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2005).
The parties said the operation would work to force a rerun of the election or discredit the legitimacy of the next government should the allegations not be dealt with. Allawi is reportedly abroad and has not commented on the issue, but his spokesman Tha'ir al-Naqib told Britain's "The Guardian" that Allawi is pushing for a new government to rule Iraq until a new election can be held, the daily reported on 22 December.
London's "Al-Hayat" identified some of the participating parties on 22 December as the Iraqi National Accord Movement, the Arab Socialist Movement, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Free Republicans Grouping, the Independent Democrats Grouping, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the National Dialogue Council, the Iraqi People's Conference, the Mosul Notables Council, and the Iraq Notables Council. According to "Al-Hayat," EU representatives have already agreed to bring the issue to the attention of the UN.
Jostling For Future Coalitions
Allawi hoped to make a comeback in the 15 December elections. He has engaged in an increasingly public battle with members of the UIA in recent weeks, and alleged that UIA members were behind a plot to assassinate him (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 December 2005). The former prime minister sees the UIA as a threat to Iraq's traditionally secular form of government and is lobbying hard to get the Kurdistan Coalition to align with him in the next parliament.
Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 20 December that Allawi sent a letter to Kurdistan Regional Government President Mas'ud Barzani asking him to consider backing out of the Kurds' alliance with the UIA and entering into an alliance with Allawi. Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani has called for the establishment of a coalition government that would include the Kurds, the UIA, the Iraqi National List, and the Iraqi Accordance Front.
Talabani's proposal is reportedly being resisted by the UIA, which has opposed the inclusion of Allawi in any kind of coalition government. However, the UIA has not opposed the inclusion of the Iraqi Accordance Front, according to Iraqi media reports.
It remains unclear whether those groups opposed to the voting results would follow through with their threats should the IECI fail to amend the vote count. The IECI faced a similar challenge following the January parliamentary elections with regards to the vote count in Ninawah Governorate. Its final decision was to ignore calls for a rerun of the election there and do nothing. The fallout was relatively small in that case, as the protesting parties largely represented minority groups. The mood of the country was also quite different in January because the election was seen as ushering in the majority rule of the long-oppressed Shi'ite community.
This time, the fallout could be much stronger, since the protesting groups include Allawi's Iraqi National List and several Sunni Arab lists. The participation of the latter in the next government is crucial, if the country is to move forward.
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