- Title: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Iraq vote counting under way
- Date: 13th March 2010
- Summary: CHILDREN PLAYING ON A CHAIR
- Embargoed: 28th March 2010 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA7GC7LZDQGBA9VYWDOAWXVXXVN
- Story Text: Final Iraqi election results are delayed as vote counters grapple with complicated verification procedures designed to uncover fraud, Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) official counting votes of Iraqis living away from home in the Gulf region says.
Vote counting was underway in Dubai on Friday (March 12) after thousands of Iraqis in the Gulf region flocked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cast their vote at specially set up ballot stations last week.
Officials from the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) counted votes observed by representatives from political and international bodies.
This week, a number of parties voiced their concerns about the delay in the release of initial results.
Oday Mahmoud, an IHEC representative in Dubai, said that delays in counting the vote were to be expected, considering the complexity of the procedure. He said the commission will not bow to any pressures from political parties to speed up the process.
"There are set procedures which the commission is obliged to follow, so it shouldn't be affected by certain pressure," he said.
Mamoud explained that IHEC workers had to ensure that no Iraqi voting outside Iraq had cast their ballot more than once.
"For example there might be a voter in Syria who comes to vote again here in Dubai, travelling is easy. So in the end this issue made us have to compare and verify ballots across all countries and in Iraq," Mahmoud said.
U.N. officials acknowledged the counting was taking longer than expected, but defended IHEC officials who they said were grappling with a complicated system set up to thwart fraud.
The IHEC computer system used to enter polling data had slowed or been taken offline intermittently for maintenance, U.N. officials said.
The vote counts made public so far represented only a small fraction of about 12 million votes cast.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had a modest lead over rival Shi'ites, partial results from Iraq's tight election race showed on Friday.
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list, a cross-sectarian, secularist alliance, was well ahead in two northern provinces home to large numbers of minority Sunnis.
Hamdiya al-Husseini, a top IHEC official, dismissed charges of serious fraud coming from Allawi's camp, including reports that ballots were discovered in the garbage and more than 200,000 soldiers' names were missing from voting rosters.
A clear victory by any of the blocs is unlikely and negotiations to form a coalition government could take months, leaving the possibility of a dangerous political vacuum as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq by the end of next year.
Sixty-two percent of Iraq's nearly 19 million voters turned out at the polls last Sunday (March 7) despite death threats from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and a spate of election-day attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents that killed 39 people.
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