Top Iraq court orders manual vote recount after latest elections

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Photo showing Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud, second right, speaks to journalists in the Supreme Court building in Baghdad, Iraq, June 21, 2018. (AP)
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Photo showing Chief Justice Medhat Al-Mahmoud, speaks to journalists in the Supreme Court building in Baghdad, Iraq, June 21, 2018. (AP)
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Photo showing Iraq's supreme court in Baghdad, June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Top Iraq court orders manual vote recount after latest elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s supreme court on Thursday ordered a manual recount of May 12 legislative elections, a process expected to take weeks although parliament’s mandate runs out at the end of this month.
The recount due to suspicions of electoral fraud, however, would not significantly affect the overall outcome, according to experts on Iraqi politics.
The court ruled that parliament’s decision on June 6 to order a manual recount in response to allegations of irregularities did not violate the constitution, its president Medhat Al-Mahmud told a news conference.
All of the roughly 11 million ballots, including those of voters living abroad, displaced persons and security forces, must be recounted, he said, referring to the three categories whose results MPs had decided to annul because they were allegedly the most suspect.
Last month’s ballot was won by cleric populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
The result was contested mainly by the political old guard following allegations of fraud in the election, Iraq’s first since the defeat of the Daesh group.
According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines used for the first time in Iraqi elections produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.
The vote saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite that has dominated the country since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein.
Many of Iraq’s longtime political figures seemingly irremovable since the dictator’s fall were pushed out of their seats by new faces.
The supreme court, whose rulings are final, also ratified parliament’s decision to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The recount is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by rival lists, according to experts, but rather modify the rankings of candidates within the same lists.
“The major blocs could win or lose three seats,” said judicial expert Haidar Al-Soufi.
Tarek Al-Marmori, another expert, said that even if a manual recount takes weeks, “there will be a legislative but no constitutional vacuum” because Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s government would stay on in a caretaker capacity.

When Sadr’s bloc scooped the most seats in May’s election it was seen as a blow for Tehran, long the dominant foreign player in conflict-hit Iraq.
The Shiite firebrand had railed against both the influence of Iran and the United States, even drawing closer to Tehran’s arch-foe Saudi Arabia.
But on June 13, he announced an alliance with pro-Iranian Hadi Al-Ameri, head of a rival list made up of former members of the mainly Shiite paramilitary units which helped the Iraqi armed forces defeat Daesh militants.
It is in the multi-ethnic, oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk that the challenge to the election results has been the strongest, and the most potentially explosive.
Kirkuk’s population made out of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen pushed Iraqi authorities to impose a curfew on the night of the results.


Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

Updated 7 min 1 sec ago
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Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

  • Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive
  • The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope

ABU DHABI: In the waters of the Arabian Sea, a vast “dead zone” the size of Scotland is expanding and scientists say climate change may be to blame.
In his lab in Abu Dhabi, Zouhair Lachkar is laboring over a colorful computer model of the Gulf of Oman, showing changing temperatures, sea levels and oxygen concentrations.
His models and new research unveiled earlier this year show a worrying trend.
Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive and the one in the Arabian Sea is “is the most intense in the world,” says Lachkar, a senior scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“It starts at about 100 meters and goes down to 1,500 meters, so almost the whole water column is completely depleted of oxygen,” he told AFP.
Dead zones are naturally occurring phenomena around the world, but this one appears to have mushroomed since it was last surveyed in the 1990s.
Lachkar and other researchers are worried that global warming is causing the zone to expand, raising concerns for local ecosystems and industries including fishing and tourism.
The discovery was made possible by the use of robotic divers, or “sea gliders,” deployed in areas researchers could not access — an undertaking by Britain’s University of East Anglia in collaboration with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.
The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope.
And unlike in the 1996 measurements, when the lowest levels were limited to the heart of the dead zone — midway between Yemen and India — now the dead zone extends across the sea.
“Now everywhere is the minimum, and it can’t go much lower,” the lead researcher Bastien Queste told AFP.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, Lachkar explains the Arabian Sea dead zone appears to be stuck in a cycle where warming seas are depleting the oxygen supply which in turn is reinforcing the warming.
This, he says, “can be very scary for climate.”
Ports from Mumbai to Muscat look out onto the Arabian Sea, making it a critical body of water.
These coastal hubs and the populations beyond them will be affected by further expansion of the dead zone.
Fish, a key source of sustenance in the region, may find their habitats compressed from deep underwater to just beneath the surface, putting them at risk of overfishing and extreme competition.
“When oxygen concentration drops below certain levels, fish cannot survive and you have massive death,” says Lachkar.
To carry out his data-heavy modelling, Lachkar relies on a sprawling supercomputer center which cost several million dollars to set up — a testament to local priorities to research climate change.
The UAE in 2016 renamed its Ministry of Environment and Water as the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, further evidence of the regional desire to meet this global challenge head-on.
“I think it is an important topic for different reasons, not only scientific reasons, but also economic,” says Lachkar from his Center for Prototype and Climate Modelling.
“Fishing is an important source of revenue and it’s directly impacted by the oxygen,” he said.
Even coral reefs and, by extension, tourism could be affected.
Down the hall from his research facility is the complementary Center for Global Sea Level Change, where researchers like Diana Francis study the worldwide impact of the problem.
The issue was at the top of the global agenda in 2015, when the world hammered out a deal in Paris to cut carbon emissions.
But the landmark agreement received a blow last year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the accord.
“It is very disappointing, because a major country is not putting effort in the same direction as the others,” says Francis of the decision.
“But our role is to stick to science, be pragmatic and try to advance our understanding of the climate,” she says.
“Politics change over time,” Francis tells AFP. “But science does not.”