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Iraqi Election Commission Rejects Recount

Iraq's high electoral commission is refusing requests by the country's President and Prime Minister for a recount in the March 7th parliamentary election.

Iraqi electoral officials are rejecting calls by President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki for a complete recount of the vote, as Mr. Maliki trails former prime minister Iyad Allawi by a slim margin with 95 percent of the vote counted.

Members of Maliki's "Law and Order" coalition, as well as some Kurdish politicians, have complained of vote fraud, amid delays and confusion in the final count. President Talabani insisted a recount is needed to "avoid doubt and misunderstanding," and "ensure justice and transparency."

Iraq's High Electoral Commission Faraj al Haidari, the head of Iraq's High Electoral Commission said there is no justification for a total recount, which would be tantamount to holding a new election.

He says that in no country in the world would you have a total country-wide recount if just one party questions the results of the election or claims that there is a mistake at just one polling station. He also rebuffs demands (by Prime Minister Maliki) for a hand recount, arguing that this would be the same as holding a new election. Why, he asks, would anyone trust a hand recount, if they do not trust the latest electronic equipment used to count the votes?

International monitors have called the voting process and count free and fair. Karim Tamimi of the electoral commission told al-Iraqiya TV a number of complaints of "red" or serious violations are currently being investigated.

Faraj al Haidari expressed satisfaction the vote count is going smoothly.

He says that 95 percent of the vote is now counted, and he expects to announce the final count by Friday at 7:00 PM. All political parties, he insists, have the right to protest the results from any of 52,000 polling stations. Each party, he adds, has been given the results of the count at each polling station.

Judge Qassem al Abboudi of the commission says political parties have a three-day window to file a complaint with the judicial system after the final results are announced.

He says the question of a total recount of the vote by hand would require strong presumption, based on international norms, and solid proof of organized fraud on a wide scale, which he says does not exist.

Analysts say several political blocs are complaining of fraud because they have fallen behind in the vote count.