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Iraqi cleric Sadr wins vote recount: electoral commission

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr s alliance won Iraq s legislative election in May according to a manual recount, the electoral commission said Friday, paving the way for a government to be formed nearly three months after the polls.

Allegations of fraud prompted the supreme court to order a partial manual recount, but Sadr s joint list with communists will retain all 54 seats it won to become the biggest bloc in Iraq s 329-seat parliament.

The only change resulting from the recount will be an extra seat for the Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters at the expense of a local Baghdad list.

Conquest Alliance remains in second place but will have 48 seats instead of 47, Iraq s nine-member electoral commission said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi s bloc remains in third with just 42 seats.

After the supreme court officially announces the final results, the outgoing president has 15 days to convene the parliament, which must then elect a new head of state and begin the process for forming a coalition government.

Sadr has already signed a coalition agreement with Shiite Ammar al-Hakim s Al-Hikma list, which will stay on 19 seats after the recount, and the secular outgoing vice-president Iyad Allawi, whose list was comprised largely of Sunnis and secured 21 seats.

The May 12 election saw a record low turnout of 44.5 percent, with long-time political figures pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

The recount results come after deadly protests broke out earlier in the summer, with demonstrators angry at water shortages, unemployment and the dire state of public services.

Regular power cuts mean there has been little respite from sweltering summer temperatures and with the national grid providing just a few hours of electricity per day, many Iraqis are forced to pay to use generators through the private sector.

Graft is also seen as a huge problem in a country where citizens argue they fail to benefit from the country s oil wealth.

Officially $40 billion (34 billion euros) has been allocated to the power sector over the past 15 years, but a substantial slice has been siphoned off by corrupt politicians and businessmen who have fronted fake contracts.

In an attempt to quell public anger after more than a month of protests, Abadi sacked four directors in the electricity ministry on Tuesday and moved a number of others.

The decision followed the dismissal last month of electricity minister Qassem al-Fahdawi “because of the deterioration in the electricity sector”, the premier s office said at the time.

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