Vote counting continues in Iraq amid warning of fraud

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Vote counting continues in Iraq amid warning of fraud

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All day, hundreds of ballot boxes have continued to arrive at the main election centre in eastern Baghdad.

Electoral commission staff are working flat out to count the votes.

Turnout has been put at 55 percent at least. Experts say it will be a few days before the results are known.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition claims it is heading for victory in Baghdad and the Shi-ite south.

But the grouping led by Iyad Allawi, one of his former opponents, is already crying foul.

“We think that forgery could still take place… it may continue, as Iyad Allawi said yesterday. Allawi has warned election staff about that possibility,” said National Dialogue Front spokesman Mishaan al-Saadi.

Thirt eight people died in attacks on voting day, but US officials praised what they saw as a calm and well-organised ballot.

“Our teams reported pretty much very quiet and very ordinary elections. They were struck by the fact that as they went to the different polling stations, everything was arranged in the same orderly manner,” said US ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill.

Negotiations to form a new government are likely to take weeks if not months. Observers say the ensuing political vacuum will test Iraq’s fragile democracy as the US halves its troop presence then withdraws completely by the end of 2011.