Iraq started on Monday a recount of the 2.5 million ballots cast in Baghdad, a move requested by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who narrowly lost an election held nearly two months ago. The manual hand count, which election officials say could take two to three weeks, means further delay to the formation of new government.
At the downtown Rasheed hotel in the Green Zone, Iraqi elections officials hauled ballot boxes onto tables in a large hall early Monday morning and issued instructions to counters on how to proceed. According to the AP, hundreds of election workers crowded into the hall and wiped the the ballot boxes.
As U.N. monitors, officials from the Independent High Elections Commission and political party observers watched, the contents of the boxes were dumped on the tables and the counting began.
Just before the recount started, election commission spokesman Qassim al-Abboudi stated that the other outstanding request for a recount by the main Kurdish bloc had been withdrawn. "Yesterday, the Kurdish alliance informed us officially of the withdrawal of their request for a recount in the provinces of Ninevah and Tamim to safeguard the national interest," he said.
According to Al-Abboudi, the elections panel is still waiting for an appeals court's decision whether to exclude as many as nine candidates who won the election but are accused of having ties to Saddam's outlawed Baath Party.