Iraq: elections or staged fraud?

Sunni Arab and secular political groups in Iraq formed a united front to demand a rerun of last week's election, alleging massive fraud, and said they might otherwise boycott the new parliament to cripple it.

"There was a meeting ... and we all agreed to contest and reject the results of the election," Thaer al-Naqib, an aide to secular former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, told.

"We want the Electoral Commission dissolved and the election rerun across Iraq," he said. "We will take to the streets if necessary. We might even not take up our seats in the new parliament and so any new government would be illegitimate."

Others among 70-80 politicians present, including secular Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlak, said representatives of three main blocs and several others took part; all felt hard done by after results showed the Shi'ite Islamists would remain dominant.

The Electoral Commission, which the disaffected leaders accuse of partisanship, has said it will examine complaints but, in common with U.S. and U.N. officials, has said it does not think irregularities had a major impact on the overall results.

The prospect of rerunning the election seem slim as a result; the protests, which come amid warnings of renewed insurgent violence among Sunnis, may also be intended to step up pressure on the triumphant Shi'ite Islamist Alliance to share power - something Washington is also encouraging it to do.

Mutlak said his own Iraqi Unified Front, Allawi's Iraqi National List, the Sunni Islamist-led Iraqi Accordance Front and several other groups had formed committees and would take their complaints not only to the Electoral Commission but also the Arab League, European Union and United Nations.

Electoral Commission chief Hussein al-Hindawi told a news conference that 10,893,413 voters took part on Thursday, putting national turnout at 69.97 percent, Reuters reports.


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