Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki alleged that the national electoral commission was fixing vote tallies from Iraq’s parliamentary elections March 7 and demanded a recount in Baghdad. Perhaps not coincidentally, Maliki’s lead is slipping. About 79 percent of ballots have been counted, and former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi’s secular Iraqiya coalition is inching ahead, with reports indicating it has captured the popular vote. (It’s still behind in the province-by-province vote, which is how parliamentary seats are apportioned.) Though the election commission has faced hundreds of fraud accusations already, this is the first time the prime minister has commented. A slim lead would make forming a coalition government tougher for Maliki. A U.S. official said Iraq’s electoral system is “too complicated to rig,” The Washington Post reports, and other Western diplomats dismissed the fraud charges as “irregularities” that would not affect the election outcome.
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