- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani on Thursday demanded that the release of full, final election results scheduled for Friday be delayed because of security concerns.

Tensions between political blocs may spill over to their supporters on the streets, Mr. Al-Bolani said, and he called for a postponement to preserve security and ensure a peaceful transition of power.

Mr. al-Bolani said that there were violations during the March 7 election and that a delay would provide time for a round table of all political parties on allegations of fraud and vote rigging.

The leading blocs in the parliamentary election are separated by a slim margin of one or two seats, Independent High Electoral Commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said Thursday.

Mr. al-Haidari also told the Associated Press that vote tallying in the historic vote was complete and that the commission was expected to sort through dozens of outstanding electoral complaints by the end of the day before announcing the full results Friday.

He said candidates then will have three days, starting Saturday, to appeal the results.

In the overall tally after 95 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition narrowly trails a bloc led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Mr. al-Haidari declined to say which side looked set to take the largest number of seats in the 325-member legislature, only acknowledging that the race was close.

“The difference between the leader and the second place will be one to two seats,” he said.

Though behind his rival in the overall vote tally, Mr. al-Maliki’s coalition is ahead in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, compared to Mr. Allawi’s five. That is significant because the allocation of parliament’s seats is based on votes counted province by province and not nationwide. The number of lawmakers sent by each province to parliament varies according to its population.

Such a narrow victory could intensify political tensions.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Sunday called for a recount to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” about the results. He said he was issuing the call as president in the interest of justice and transparency, though the Kurdish leader’s own coalition is losing to Mr. Allawi’s secular alliance in a key province.

The electoral commission, an independent body appointed by parliament, has rejected calls for a recount. The panel submits its results only to the country’s supreme court for ratification.

A recount or a protracted election dispute could complicate the seating of a new government. In Iraq’s fledgling democracy, such periods of political instability often have been accompanied by a spike in violence, as debates not settled at the negotiating table are taken to the streets.

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