protest election results in Baghdad

protest election results in BaghdadScores of demonstrators take to streets of Baghdad to show their rejection of ballot-rigging in poll.
By Ammar Karim – BAGHDAD

Thousands of demonstrators rallied Tuesday morning in western Baghdad to protest alleged fraud in Iraq’s December 15 general elections and demand a re-run of the poll.

"No democracy without real elections", "rigged polls", "down with the electoral commission" read a number of banners.

The demonstration was called by the Maram alliance, an Arabic acronym for the Conference Rejecting Rigged Elections which includes both Sunni Arab and secular factions, dissatisfied with the preliminary election results suggesting that the Shiite-based religious parties will control the next parliament.

Ali al-Tamimi, a spokesman for the Maram alliance of some 42 parties and factions said the rally was meant to "show the Iraqi people’s rejection of the ballot-rigging" in the election.

The leader of Iraq’s main Shiite party, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, was meeting Tuesday in the north of the country with the leader of the Kurdistan regional government, Massud Barzani, to discuss the setting up of a coalition government, Kurdish officials said.

Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the main Shiite party in a majority Shiite country, was also expected to address the Kurdish regional parliament in Arbil on Wednesday.

President Jalal Talabani’s office announced that the president would be holding meetings on Wednesday with the heads of all the major political coalitions, particularly the disaffected parties, in the northern town of Dokan.

The electoral commission has acknowledged receiving some 1,500 complaints, but says only a couple of dozens are "serious" enough to warrant possible annulment of some of the results.

Meanwhile a top defence ministry official, major general Abdul Aziz Mohammed Jassim, accused insurgents of spreading false information "to cast doubt on the fairness of the elections" and incite "disorder and riots".

In the northern city of Kirkuk, Turkmen and Sunni Arabs on Tuesday called on the US administration, the United Nations and the Arab League to investigate the results of the elections, especially in their region.

The oil-producing city hosts a delicate balance of Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmens.

"We want to send a message to Iraqi political forces and to the US administration and the UN that the Arab and Turkmen in Kirkuk stand alongside the national forces in rejecting the (election) results," Abdel Rahman Monshid al-Aasy, head of the Arab Council of Kirkuk.

Shiite politicians on Saturday rejected the accusations of fraud and denounced the use of street pressure to try to overturn the results.

In the Shiite city of Karbala on Monday, hundreds demonstrated in support of the election results and called for a new term for Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

"We voted for who we wanted to represent us, in total freedom and without any fraud and we demand that our vote be preserved and not be thrown away," said demonstrator Mohammed Jassim Hussein, who carried a poster of Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.