BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A senior Iraqi election official on Saturday said the country’s electoral commission would not be able to release final results from the Dec. 15 elections in the coming week, likely delaying certification of the outcome until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, a senior official with an international team assessing the results at the request of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said his group would take more than a week to issue their own final findings. There had been hopes the final results would be released in the coming days.
“It is impossible to have the final election results this week,” Safwat Rashid, a senior member of the IEIC, told The Associated Press. He was referring to the Islamic week, which began Friday and ends Thursday.
The leader of the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said delaying the results to accommodate the international monitoring team’s investigation was a logical decision.
“If the results were announced without the review by the international committee, the results would not be accurate or in accordance with the votes that were actually cast,” he said.
A group of assessors from the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, or IMIE, arrived at the beginning of January after Sunni Arab and Shiite secular parties complained the elections had been tainted by widespread fraud and intimidation. They demanded a rerun of the elections in some provinces including Baghdad, Iraq’s largest with 59 of the parliament’s 275-seats.
Kamal al-Saadi, a senior official in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Dawa party, said he had no problem with delaying the results another week.
He said the delay may mean that election officials want to be “more accurate in the process,” and added that the international team assessing the results is here so that “there would be no doubt about the results in the minds of those who have complained.”
About 2,000 complaints were filed after the elections, including about 50 thought to be serious enough to affect the results in at some of the more than 30,000 polling stations that were set up around this country of 27 million.
“The work is still going on and we are still discussing all the information that we collected from all sides, electoral commission, international monitors and other (political) lists,” Mazin Shuaib, executive manager of the International Team told the AP.
He added that “we are not facing any problem in our mission and all sides are cooperating, are clear and transparent. We heard from lists that have complaints and took all their points into our consideration, but no commitments have been made to any of them.”
In violence on Saturday, gunmen killed a Shiite imam in northern Baghdad, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadawi said. Police found the body of a man, his legs and hands bound, who had been shot in the head, Capt. Firas Qiti said.
Insurgents apparently shot down a U.S. Army reconnaissance helicopter in the northern city of Mosul on Friday, killing its two pilots, in the second fatal helicopter crash in Iraq in less than a week.
One witness said he heard machine-gun fire before the helicopter crashed Friday, and children told soldiers that the sound of gunfire came from three or four directions and that the helicopter was flying erratically, possibly trying to evade it.
The helicopter’s two pilots, the only people aboard, were killed.
The crash came as Lt. Gen. John Vines, chief of the Multi-National Corps Iraq, predicted increased attacks around Iraq when final election results are released. At least 500 people and more than 50 U.S. troops have been killed since the Dec. 15 elections.
Vines, the second highest ranking general in Iraq, said from Baghdad’s Camp Victory that there were indications the OH-58 Kiowa was shot down.
The armed helicopter was on a combat air patrol just outside Forward Operating Base Courage when it went down in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, the military said.
The crash deaths bring to at least 2,214 U.S. service members killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The helicopter crash came nearly a week after a Black Hawk helicopter carrying eight U.S. troops and four American civilians went down near the northern city of Tal Afar, killing all aboard. Pentagon officials said the cause of that crash was still being investigated.
The U.S. military has predicted more violence for Iraq in the weeks ahead as the country’s splintered politicians and religious groups struggle to form a government.
While the last three days have been generally violence-free, as the country observes the Islamic feast of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, Vines said the insurgents “have not given up. They have not gone away. They have not gone home.”
Final election results have been delayed by Sunni Arab complaints of fraud. Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the January 2005 elections for an interim government.
The governing United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite religious bloc, has a strong lead, according to preliminary results. But it won’t win enough seats in the 275-member parliament to avoid forming a coalition with Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.
Elsewhere on Saturday, a small Shiite party, the Fadila Party, nominated Dr. Nadim al-Jabiri for the post of prime minister.