BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s prime minister said on Tuesday there were “dangerous violations” in the May 12 parliamentary election and banned members of the election commission from traveling, a move that could hinder the delicate process of forming a new government.
The election was won by a bloc led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the United States who also opposes Iran’s sway in Iraq.
Haider al-Abadi told a news conference that a report presented to the government recommended a partial manual recount of the vote and the cancellation of results from overseas and displaced voters.
And he said most of the blame for violations lay with Iraq’s Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC).
Abadi said he had initially been in favor of moving forward with the political process after the election because Iraq had a history of electoral irregularities that were usually worked out.
“In the beginning I said ‘Let’s keep going and let the commission deal with the violations’. There are violations each election, here and there.”
But he said he was alarmed after studying the report’s findings.
“The committee has revealed dangerous things, honestly. Yes there may have been some violations by candidates but the election commission bears the largest share of the responsibility,” he said.
High ranking members of IHEC would now be banned from traveling abroad without his permission, Abadi said. Criminal charges might be brought against some people although he did not name them or say if they belonged to the commission.
Abadi said the main issue was with the electronic vote counting devices used by IHEC this year, which he said had been used without prior inspection for errors.
An IHEC spokesman declined to comment.
Abadi’s stance raises the prospect of further uncertainty in Iraq at a time when political blocs were starting the complicated process of forming a new government, watched closely by Baghdad’s Western allies.
Sadr, whose bloc won the election, led two violent uprisings against U.S. occupation troops after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, secured a surprise victory in the poll by tapping into resentment with government corruption and Tehran’s deep influence in Iraq, its most important Arab ally.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Richard Balmforth