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Rudaw

Iraq

Election commission says staff taken hostage as results row escalates

By Rudaw 16/5/2018
Iraq election commission staff manually count ballots and compare them with electronic readouts in Najaf on Sunday. Photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP
Iraq election commission staff manually count ballots and compare them with electronic readouts in Najaf on Sunday. Photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s electoral commission is under pressure, including threats from unnamed armed persons as rows over the election results continue. The head of the commission described a “hostage” situation in Kirkuk and Daquq. 

The dispute of the election results is also playing out within the commission after one member accused the organization of refusing to carry out a manual recount.

"There is no justification for a manual recount yet,” Riyadh al-Badran, head of Iraq’s electoral commission, told journalists in a press conference.

The commission’s refusal to commit to a manual recount at this time comes despite many accusations of voter fraud and dissent within its own organization. Ayad Kakayi, a commission member, lamented the commission’s unwillingness to respond to complaints by political parties.

Kakayi revealed in a press conference before the one held by the commission head that requests for a manual recount have been submitted for about five percent of ballot boxes. He said that refusing to do a recount is contrary to the commission’s bylaws. 

"I call on my colleagues in the commissar's council to implement the above laws and to respond to the calls and complaints of political parties with either accepting or declining them, and to hand over the electronic copies of the voter sheets,” he said.

He added that the commission hasn't responded to a complaint filed by six Kurdish parties over voter fraud.

Commission head Badran accused Kakayi of being under pressure from certain political parties and compromising his personal neutrality and the independence of the commission.

"The commissar’s office is about to take legal action against the member of the commissar’s council Dr. Ayad Kakayi,” he said. 

He explained that Kakayi had received threats and called on the security forces to "carry out their duty" and protect the safety of commission employees.

"We currently have employees are who like hostages in a polling station in Kirkuk, in the warehouses of Kirkuk's electoral office. Also, in the electoral office of Daquq there are particular political parties and armed individuals surrounding the warehouse and Daquq's electoral station,” Badran disclosed, without providing information on the identity of the parties or armed persons.

One hundred and eighty-six polling stations in Kirkuk have yet to submit their results, Badran detailed, saying this has delayed announcements of final results. 

"I would like to assure everyone that the commission is in control and steadfast, despite all the pressure being exerted on it,” he said.

"We insist, no matter the cost, even with our lives, on helping the electoral process succeeding,” he continued.

Badran promised final election results will be released within two days.

Many parties, especially in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed areas, have complained of voter fraud in Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election. 

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