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Iraq Expands Manual Recount to 7 Provinces
By Sinan Salaheddin

(AP) -- Iraq's election commission on Monday expanded its manual recount of ballots from May's parliamentary elections, which were marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities.

Observers from the United Nations and Iraqi political parties watched as commission employees in Baghdad began recounting ballots from six Shiite-dominated provinces: Basra, Mayssan, Thi Qar, Muthana, Qadissiya and Wasit.

Earlier Monday, the commission started its manual recount of votes in the northern Sulaimaniyah province, one of three that make up the self-ruled Kurdish region, a statement said.

Last week, the elections commission started the recount for the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, where Turkmen and Arab groups have accused the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of fraud, allegations the party has denied. No results have been made public yet.

Iraq's May 12 balloting was the country's fourth national election since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It was also the first vote since the government announced the defeat of the Islamic State group.

However, the elections saw the lowest turnout yet, mainly due to public anger at the political elite.

The partial recount, approved by Iraq's Supreme Court last month, will further complicate the fragile postelections period and prolong the process of forming a new government. It will include the recounting of paper ballots from inside and outside the country.

Iraq's populist Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, gained the largest share in the vote, garnering 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament. An Iran-backed bloc -- made up of Shiite militias -- came in second with 47 seats, followed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's alliance, with 42 seats.


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