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.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.