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Iraq to probe voting irregularities in May 12 elections

By The Associated Press  |  Posted May 25th, 2018 @ 7:24am


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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister has ordered the creation of a high-powered commission to look into alleged irregularities in the parliamentary elections held May 12, the first sign that authorities are taking seriously complaints about the vote.

An official statement said an emergency Cabinet meeting held late on Thursday and chaired by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi named the country's anti-graft chief as the commission's leader. Assisting him will be the heads of five, top level security and oversight agencies.

There have been complaints of irregularities in the balloting earlier this month in which an electronic voting system was used for the first time.

A manual recount of votes in some areas has been called for, a request that has been rejected by the election commission as illegal.

The Cabinet statement suggested that hackers may have manipulated the results. It said the government agency tasked with fighting cybercrime believes the electronic voting system was not impregnable.

Al-Abadi, according to the statement, ordered the elections commission to fully cooperate with the probe, making available all relevant documents. The probe's findings will be presented to the prime minister as well as the Supreme Judicial Council and the Federal Supreme Court, it added.

The elections earlier this month saw the lowest turnout in the 15 years since the late ruler Saddam Hussein was toppled by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Surprisingly, supporters of a populist Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters attacked American troops in the years that followed the invasion, emerged with the largest number of seats won by a single bloc, 54. A coalition of paramilitary forces came in second with 47 of the chamber's 329 seats. Al-Abadi's "Victory" bloc took 42 seats.

Negotiations to piece together a coalition with a majority in the house that can form the next government began last week. The process in the has past lasted weeks or months. The probe on alleged voting irregularities, for which no deadline was announced, could cause further delays.

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