Baghdad — Iraq's election commission began Tuesday a hand recount of ballots from May's parliamentary elections, starting with the northern city of Kirkuk, the country's state television said, a step that will further prolong the process of forming the new government.
Iraq's May 12 vote — the fourth elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion — saw the lowest voter turnout in 15 years due to widespread anger at the country's dysfunctional political class.
The state TV, the only station allowed to cover the recount, showed dozens of ballot boxes lined up on the ground at a covered sports hall as commission employees counted the sheets.
The commission has said the recount will extend to six other provinces in the coming days.
The vote was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities, largely blamed on electronic voting machines meant to tabulate results speedily.
Iraq's Supreme Court last month approved a partial recount of the paper ballots from inside and outside Iraq, contrary to the recount of all ballots requested by parliament. No deadline has been set for the recount.
The initial election results gave a bloc organized by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr the largest share, with 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament. It was followed by an Iran-backed bloc — made up by Shiite militias — which won 47 seats, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's alliance, with 42 seats.
The fraud allegations have further complicated the post-election scene, as the top judicial authority took over the commission and a fire ripped through a storage site for ballot boxes from eastern Baghdad. The commission later said the boxes were safe.
Last Sunday, a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car near a ballot box storage facility, killing one person and wounding up to 20. Police and local officials said there were no damages to the warehouse.