Recount shows Iraq’s Sadr retains election victory

An Iraqi man celebrates with a picture of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr during the general election in Baghdad on May 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Recount shows Iraq’s Sadr retains election victory

  • Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission released the results of the recount on its website early on Friday
  • The IHEC said the results of the recount matched the initial results from 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces

BAGHDAD: Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr retained his lead in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, results of a nationwide recount of votes showed on Friday, positioning him to play a central role in forming the country’s next government.
Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) released the results of the recount on its website early on Friday. Parliament ordered the recount in June after widespread allegations of fraud cast doubt on the integrity of the ballot.
The IHEC said the results of the recount matched the initial results from 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
The winning parties are still embroiled in negotiations over forming the next governing coalition three months after the vote, with no sign of an imminent conclusion.
The recount did not alter the initial results significantly, with Sadr keeping his tally of 54 seats.
A group of Iran-backed Shiite militia leaders remained second behind Sadr’s bloc but gained an extra seat that pushed them to 48, with incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s bloc still in third place with 42 seats.
Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new one is formed.
The political uncertainty over the makeup of the new government has raised tensions at a time when public impatience is growing over poor basic services, unemployment and the slow pace of rebuilding after a three-year war with the Islamic State militant group.
Anger is mounting with frequent protests, backed by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, taking place in the Shiite southern provinces.
Sadr, who also backs the protests, has issued a list of 40 conditions he says the new prime minister has to meet, including being politically independent and not running for re-election, for his bloc to join a governing coalition and that he would go into opposition if the conditions were not met.

Recount

The manual recount has been politically contentious from the start, although it was never expected to widely alter the results.
The IHEC said on Monday it had completed the recount but was forced to cut the process short in the capital, Baghdad, because voting records had been destroyed by a warehouse fire two months ago.
The fire broke out hours after parliament ordered the recount and suspended the electoral commission’s leadership, replacing it with a panel of judges, after a government report concluded there were serious violations in an initial count using an electronic vote-counting system.
The digitised system was intended to help regulate and speed up vote-counting. However, critics have claimed the tabulation system in electronic voting machines that were used for the first time were not secure enough from tampering.
The IHEC ignored an anti-corruption body’s warnings about the credibility of the electronic machines used in the election, a document seen by Reuters showed.
The devices, provided by South Korean company Miru Systems under a deal with the IHEC, are at the heart of fraud allegations that led to the manual recount.
Concerns about the election count center on discrepancies in the tallying of votes by the voting machines, mainly in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya and the ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk, and suggestions that the devices could have been tampered with or hacked into in order to skew the result.


Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

An intended visit to Tehran was canceled and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

  • Iran has maintained close ties to Iraq's government since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, Tehran's archenemy
  • The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its alleged support for international terrorism

BAGHDAD: Failure by Iraq to comply fully with tough new US economic sanctions against Iran would be insane, analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi risked incurring US wrath after contradicting himself in the space of a few hours over whether his country would comply.
Amid diplomatic maneuvers, as he negotiates for a second term in office after divisive and contested elections, Abadi offended both Tehran and Washington with conflicting statements on the US sanctions, which were reimposed last week.
First, the prime minister said that while Iraq disapproved of the new sanctions, it would reluctantly comply. “We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” he said.
“Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran. But. at the same time, I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy.”
His position provoked anger in Iran. An intended visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss the issue was canceled, and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned.
There was also criticism inside Iraq, especially from groups close to Tehran, such as the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.
Within hours, however, Abadi had reversed his position. “I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions. We have no other choice,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.
Asked if Baghdad would stop imports of commodities, appliances and equipment by government companies from Iran, he said the matter was still being reviewed. “We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now,” he said.
Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News: “Iraq can’t afford to be cut off from the dollar-based global financial system, so it makes sense to avoid sanctioned Iranian financial entities. Iraq should also protect its dollar reserves.
“These are the only sane options for a country that desperately needs international investment.”
Iraq is the second-largest purchaser of Iranian non-oil exports, and bought about $6 billion worth of goods in 2017. It also buys Iranian-generated electricity to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the British renewable energy investor Quercus became the latest major company to pull out of Iran as a result of the new sanctions.
It halted construction of $570 million solar power plant in Iran, which would have been the sixth-largest in the world.