[JURIST] The coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official profile, in Arabic; BBC profile] requested Monday that an election court delay a recount of votes from the March 7 parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that began Monday morning, claiming that the procedures currently in place fail to protect adequately against irregularities. Head of the Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] Faraj al-Haidari said the recount will continue despite the legal challenge [NYT report] unless a court orders otherwise. Representatives from the UN and the US Embassy in Iraq are monitoring the recount [RFI report], in which 2.5 million ballots must be counted by hand [BBC report]. The process which is expected to take up to three weeks.
Last week, an IHEC review panel ordered the recount delayed [JURIST report] so the panel could determine what the recount would entail. On the same day, the panel nullified votes for 52 candidates whom it determined had ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder]. The IHEC ordered a manual recount [JURIST report] of the ballots in Baghdad last month, following fraud allegations. The election commissioner for the IHEC informed the public that the Baghdad recount would begin immediately [Al Jazeera report], citing manipulation in voting stations. Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition headed by Iyad Allawi [personal website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile] held a slight lead. In February, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to the Baath Party could stand in the election. The initial ban was characterized by the Iraqi government as illegal and was reversed [JURIST reports] when the panel acknowledged that it did not have to rule on all 500 candidates at once. This came as a reversal of a previous decision, where it held [WSJ report] that the candidates could stand in the coming elections, but would have to be cleared of the allegations against them before taking office.