WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - On Thursday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed Washington’s backing for the call by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) for an immediate and full investigation of complaints about the vote counting in Iraq’s parliamentary elections
“We agree with the UN Special Representative,” who “has called on the Independent High Electoral Commission [IHEC] to immediately and fully investigate” complaints of irregularities, Nauert said.
Numerous complaints have been raised, and 81 members of Iraq’s parliament signed a letter, released on Thursday, calling for the parliament to address the “catastrophic” election results, including “fraud, distortion of facts, negligence, and lack of participation.”
Parliament is to meet on Saturday in an emergency session to deal with the issue.
On Thursday, Jan Kubis, UN envoy to Iraq, called on IHEC to “act expeditiously to seriously address all complaints,” and Nauert backed his statement at a press briefing later that day.
Iraqi Vice-President Ayad Allawi, however, raised the possibility that IHEC might be incapable of a satisfactory performance, as he accused it of being “incompetent and corrupt” and called for new elections.
Entifadh Qanbar, an Iraqi-American and President of the Future Foundation in Washington DC, advised Kurdistan 24 that Iran was largely responsible for the fraud, working with Iraqi officials with whom it has ties in order to promote political parties sympathetic to Tehran.
The Kurds have also complained about the vote tally, particularly in Sulaimani Province, where every Kurdish party, save the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has charged fraud.
The leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) held a meeting Monday, chaired by Masoud Barzani, head of the KDP and former president of the Kurdistan Region, after which the KDP called for a manual recount of the votes in Sulaimani province.
According to the preliminary results, the PUK won in Sulaimani by a large margin, reclaiming the province from the Change Movement (Gorran), which has held it since 2009, when the party was first established.
Those results are all the more remarkable, as PUK elements collaborated in last October’s assault on Kirkuk, a military operation engineered by Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
That attack angered virtually the entire Kurdish population, yet the Kurdish figure reported to be most responsible for the collaboration with the Quds Force commander, Bafel Talabani, hailed the results in Sulaimani Province as a “golden victory” for the PUK.
Even Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has joined in calling for an investigation of “violations committed by (the IHEC.)”
Iraq used an electronic, biometric voting system for the first time in these elections. That was supposed to facilitate a quick tally of votes. Yet nearly a week has passed since the election was held.
Thus, Nauert called “for the release of final election results as quickly as possible.”
The preliminary results—with Abadi, America’s favored candidate, placing third—constitute a major challenge for the US, because the top two lists are led by hostile figures.
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked about that on Thursday.
“The top vote-getter” was the party “linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, a sworn enemy of the United States and someone aligned with the Iraqi Communist Party,” a journalist’s question began.
“The second-place finisher was the party aligned” with Hadi al-Amiri, “a warlord, who was once backed by Iran,” he continued.
Amiri is still backed by Iran, of course, making even more pointed the question: “What’s the US attitude on a government in Baghdad having either of those individuals as the key player?”
“I’ll start with the fact I’m glad you said the names and not me—(laughter)—because I probably wouldn’t have gotten them right,” Sanders replied.
“But in terms of our policy, we don’t have any new policy announcements with a potential change.”
Editing by Nadia Riva