BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A panel on Monday ordered a recount of ballots cast in Baghdad in Iraq’s March 7 election, raising the chance of a reversal in the results that gave a cross-sectarian group backed by minority Sunnis a slim lead.
Electoral commissioner Hamdiya al-Husseini said the manual recount would begin immediately but she was not sure how long it would take.
The capital accounts for 68 seats in the 325-seat parliament, making it a key prize, and Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance had been seeking a recount after coming a close second in the election.
“We expect that this will change the results for the benefit of State of Law,” said Kamal el-Saadi, a senior member of Maliki’s coalition.
Seen as a milestone as Iraq emerges from the sectarian slaughter unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, last month’s ballot produced no clear winner.
The Iraqiya list of a former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, came first with 91 seats, according to preliminary results, after winning the broad backing of Sunnis frustrated at the rise of Shi’ite political supremacy since the fall of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
Maliki’s Shi’ite-led State of Law won 89 seats while erstwhile Shi’ite allies grouped in the Iraqi National Alliance got around 70. Minority Kurds who enjoy virtual autonomy in the north collectively control 58 or so seats.
The blocs have been involved in negotiations to form coalitions to create a working majority in the next parliament and select a prime minister.
Maliki’s alliance and the INA have been inching toward a union that could sideline Allawi, likely producing anger among Sunnis and providing fresh fuel for a stubborn Sunni-led insurgency.