ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Political parties in Kirkuk are contesting multiple aspects of a plan to hold a manual recount of May's contested national election and are also claiming that ballot boxes have been tampered with.
Iraq's Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over elections in the country, recently ruled in favor of a parliamentary plan to hold a full recount of ballots cast on May 12.
A panel of judges charged with overseeing the recount in place of Iraq's electoral commision announced on Sunday, however, that they would only manually recount votes made at polling stations where official complaints of fraud had been lodged.
The decision caused an uproar in many parties across Iraq, namely in Kirkuk Province.
Shortly after polling closed, Turkmen and Arabic parties, along with some Kurdish ones, issued a complaint to the electoral commission, claiming massive fraud had been taken place and demanded a full manual recount of votes in the province.
Turkmen parties who have organized several demonstrations in Kirkuk over the past few weeks have threatened to continue them.
“Those who fear fraud are afraid of the manual recount,” Ali Mufti, the spokesman for the Turkmeneli Party in Kirkuk told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
“The federal court’s decision is clear that requires the manual recount of all votes across Iraq, but now the judges came up with a different interpretation. They say the manual recount will be applied only to those ballot stations that have been reported of violations. We do not accept this. The manual recount should include all the ballot stations.”
According to the text of the decision, this claim appears to be correct, but there has been no public communication about it from the Supreme Court since the judges announced their decision.
Turkmen parties, accompanied by armed militias, surrounded a warehouse where ballots were stored in Kirkuk following the election, preventing the boxes to be sent to Baghdad, and still insist they will not allow their transport.
Members of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the top vote-getter in Kirkuk according to the initial count, has approached a Kirkuk court, stating they will not accept any changes in the results, claiming that the ballots have not been stored under proper security conditions.
“With the presence of the election monitors of the political parties, the judge who replaced the electoral commission in Kirkuk has stated that the ballot boxes have been opened by some people and locks of doors have been changed,” Sherzad Samad, a PUK member in Kirkuk told Kurdistan 24.
“This is clear evidence that [after the election] some parties have touched the ballot boxes. We have issued our complaints that we will not accept any changes in the election results.”
The committee of judges have already started the recount in Baghdad and have stated that Kirkuk will be next.
Initial election results, as announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), showed that of the 13 parliamentary seats allocated for the ethnically-diverse province: the PUK won 6, Turkmen parties won 3, Arab parties won 3, and one for a Christian party.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Soran Kamaran contributed to this report)