BAGHDAD (Dispatches) -- Two days after Iraq’s legislative election, popular anti-terror parties on Tuesday denounced early poll results suggesting waning support as “manipulation” and a “scam”.
Sunday’s parliamentary election -- the fifth in the war-scarred country since the U.S.-led invasion and overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 -- was marked by a record low turnout of 41 percent.
According to preliminary results from the electoral commission, the biggest winner appeared to be the movement of political maverick Moqtada Sadr, which increased its lead to 73 of the assembly’s 329 seats.
Losses were booked by popular parties that make up the paramilitary network known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, or Popular Mobilization forces.
Iraqi election officials on Sunday conducted a manual count of votes as part of the verification process for the electronic count, at a polling station in Baghdad
The Fatah (Conquest) Alliance, previously the second largest bloc in parliament, suffered a sharp decline from 48 to only about a dozen seats, according to observers and results compiled by AFP.
“We will appeal against the results and we reject them,” said a joint statement by several of the parties, including the Fatah Alliance.
“We will take all available measures to prevent the manipulation of votes,” added the statement also signed by the party of former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who served from 2014 to 2018.
“We will not accept these fabricated results, whatever the cost,” the Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network quoted Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary general of the Badr Organization.“We will defend the votes cast for our candidates and voters with full force.”
One of Hashd’s most powerful factions, the Hezbollah Brigades, rejected the election as “the biggest scam and rip-off the Iraqi people have been subjected to in modern history.”
“The Hashd al-Sha’abi brothers are the main targets,” its spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari charged.
The Hashd was formed in 2014 and went on to play a major role in the defeat of the Daesh terror group, which had expanded its self-declared “caliphate” centered in Syria and taken over a third of Iraq.
The Hashd has since been integrated into Iraq’s state security apparatus, and many lawmakers linked to it were elected to parliament in 2018.
The Coordinating Committee of Shia Parties in Iraq raised strong objection over what it described as the High Electoral Commission’s failure to honor its obligations.
The committee is comprised of Fatah Alliance, the State of Law Alliance, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq political party, Kata’ib Hezbollah as well as other Shia factions.
“Given the insistence of the coordinating committee and calls by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful religious authority, for a free, safe and fair vote, and in order to prevent major doubts and problems that ensued the 2018 elections and resulted in a political stalemate and unfortunate events, we had presented all technical points to the High Electoral Commission in order to ensure the democratic process of the elections and its cleanness,” it said in a statement.
“The Commission pledged to address all these problems with practical steps. It, however, failed to take the legal measures it had earlier pledged to adopt.
“We, therefore, announce our appeal against the announced results and our rejection of them. We will take all available measures to prevent the manipulation of votes,” it added.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi brought forward the vote from 2022 to appease a youth-led protest movement that erupted two years ago against graft, unemployment and crumbling public services.
Iraq is a major oil producer but nearly a third of its almost 40 million people live in poverty, according to UN figures, and the Covid pandemic only deepened a long-running economic crisis.
Kadhemi’s political future is now uncertain, with few observers willing to predict who will emerge as leader after the usual haggling between factions that follows Iraqi elections.
Another notable trend in the election was gains by the State of Law Alliance of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who served from 2006 to 2014. His party can count on about 30 seats.
Kurdish parties won 61 seats, the results showed, including 32 for the Kurdistan Democratic Party which dominates the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, and 15 for its rival the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
Sunni parliament speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi’s Taqaddum coalition won 38 seats, Iraq’s state news agency reported, making it the second largest in parliament.