Kirkuk Now A jarring tension has emerged among various political parties following the announcement of preliminary results of the Iraqi parliamentary election, leading to an armed showdown in some cases. Apparent especially in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk, the political parties accuse the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] of orchestrating the elections and hacking into the electronic system used in the ballot boxes. However, PUK rejects such accusations and threatens to file a lawsuit against those which claim it. The Independent High Electoral Commission [IHEC], as the management of the process, has often announced the difficulty of hacking into their electronic system to the extent of being impossible, while their final decision concerning the accusation is pending an ongoing investigation. Election Statistics The Iraqi parliamentary election was conducted in three phases: 10 May was Special Voting, 10 and 11 May was for Iraqi citizens abroad, and on 12 May, ordinary voting for all eligible citizens was conducted. The turnout was around 11 million out of the total 24 million eligible constitutes, according to IHEC statistics, from which more than 700 thousand voted on the Special Voting day, and 179 thousand from overseas, while the rest voted in the ordinary election. IHEC announced the success of the process in the first statement following the closure of ballot boxes, claiming the turnout had reached 44.5%. Voters could vote mainly through biometric or electronic cards, while their votes were later counted through an electronic system, linked directly to Baghdad’s major center through a satellite. Seven thousand candidates competed to win one of the 329 seats of Iraqi parliament through more than 80 political blocs. Disgruntled Arabs and Turkmens Election process underwent lots of discontent and discord in Kirkuk. Some of the parties, especially from Arab and Turkmen components, were discontent with the preliminary election results. The political affiliates and supporters from both components launched gatherings and protests since the evening of the election, where they accuse PUK of fraud and claim that their votes have been counted as PUK’s portion. The disgruntled parties in Kirkuk have given a 24-hour deadline for the Commissioners Council at IHEC to repeat the count manually, so the true results can be revealed. President of the Turkmen Front Arshad Salhi said on Sunday 13 May, “Following the response of the three presidencies of Iraq, and the components’ complaint concerning the election in Kirkuk province, a committee from IHEC is expected to visit Kirkuk to investigate the truth of the recent developments.” According to a statement by Arab and Turkmen representatives in Kirkuk, the Iraqi PM was asked to call on recounting the votes manually, exclude those who were involved in fraud and protect the ballot boxes of the city. Acting governor of Kirkuk Rakan Saeed, which is an influential Arab leader, rejected the results in a press conference late on 12 May and called on recounting the votes. The parties did not clarify the method used for “fraud” in the elections but given lots of examples where even their own votes or votes of their family members are missing or not counted. Six Kurdish parties reject the results Seven political parties in the Kurdistan region reject the results of parliamentary elections in Iraq and claim of fraud through hacking the electronic system. In a joint statement after their swift meeting, Gorran Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Union [KIU], Islamic Group of Kurdistan [KIG], Alliance for Democracy and Justice [CDJ], Communist Party of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Islamic Movement all said called for canceling the results of the election. They warned, “We do not accept mocking the will of the people of Kurdistan, and we will take some steps in practice in the coming days.” These parties accuse PUK of meddling with the election results in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk, and other disputed areas, as they say, that their votes have been counted as PUK’s. Late on Saturday, after preliminary results were announced, Gorran claimed their major headquarter in Sulaimaniyah had been attacked with heavy weaponry, while they were holding a four-party meeting, and an employee from Khandan media outlet, affiliated with CDJ, was hit and died. They point fingers at PUK for the murder, despite the financial damage. Following that, the four parties of Gorran, KIU, KIG, and CDJ rejected the process of the election and announced that they will not abide by the results, in a joint statement. They asked to repeat the process in the disputed areas and other places of the Kurdistan region. On the same evening, PM Nechirvan Barzani expressed his concerns about the security situation in Sulaimaniyah, and asked to immediately halt the shooting at political party HQs, and called on the security forces to perform their role. Despite such protests, KDP, which claims to have guaranteed the majority in the Kurdistan region, rejected the results of Sulaimaniyah as well. Spokesman of KDP Mahmood Muhammad said, “We have lots of suspicious that there might have been meddling with the election.” He asked for recounting the votes manually. Big Blocs Discontent Among the major political blocs in Iraq, only the National Alliance, led by Ayad Allawi, has appealed against the election results, while others are yet to have a firm stance. Allawi’s alliance calls on canceling the election results, and asks for the repetition of the process, in a more suitable situation. The excuses presented by the alliance are the ongoing violent acts, fraud, buying votes and exploiting the situation of internally displaced people [IDP]. Some of the other blocs, especially Sunni Arabs, where the majority of their residents are IDPs due to the Islamic State war, have not yet rejected or accepted the results despite having complaints. PUK threatens to file a lawsuit Accused of orchestrating the election in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk, PUK rejects such accusations and threatens to file a lawsuit. The legal consultant of PUK’s Political Bureau Simko Asaad said on Sunday in a press conference, “It is the right of PUK to file a lawsuit against such baseless accusations thrown at it.” He also said, “IHEC supervised the process itself in all Iraq. Thus no one or party can meddle with the results, because the results are all in a special server in Baghdad. No one or party can orchestrate the results in a certain province.” Concerning the situation in Sulaimaniyah and accusations against them about attacking Gorran, he called on a thorough investigation of such events. The official spokesman of PUK Saadi Pira said in a press conference on Sunday, “PUK is bound to the investigation of election results and complies with any decision made by IHEC.” Pira claimed, “We do not allow the others to put the blame on us. We also are discontent about the election results in Duhok, Mosul, and Erbil and will file a complaint.” IHEC stance and reactions The final stance of IHEC is through the newly-formed committee for investigation, despite its repeated claim that the results cannot be meddled with. According to the information of IHEC officials given media outlets, special committees have been formed and sent to Kirkuk, Sulaimaniyah, and other areas were discontent parties exist. The leader of Arab Alliance in Kirkuk Raad Sami told Kirkuk Now that a committee has been formed in Baghdad and arrived at Kirkuk this evening, deployed at the sports center of the city, but they refuse to communicate with any party or outlet until they conclude their investigation. They asked to recount the votes manually with the presence of representatives of political parties and components, to avoid fraud. The formation of such committees, followed the complaint of political parties in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk, along with a statement by PM Haidar al-Abbadi calling the security forces to keep the security of the country. al-Abbadi has asked IHEC to take swift measures to check the ballot boxes and investigate the election results. According to the IHEC instructions, the preliminary results will be published in 48 hours after the process was concluded, but they are not official. Director of IHEC Maan Hitawi said in a press conference that they will review all the complaints they have received concerning the election. Meanwhile in Kirkuk, the major HQ of IHEC was surrounded by armed men as a protest at night of 11 May. During the developments, Abdulbasit Darwesh told Kirkuk Now, “After revealing some of the preliminary results of the election, an armed force has surrounded the major HQ of IHEC and some of their [employees] have fled, while the rest are in danger.” Problems with Special Voting Special Voting for Iraqi parliamentary election did not go without tension, as Turkmen and Arab components claim that the voting was meddled with in favor of the PUK, especially in Hawija district, where not ethnic Kurd lives. One of the results, circulating in the social media, shows that PUK has obtained 157 votes in one center, while the two major rival Arab groups, Arab Alliance of Kirkuk and National Alliance, have received two votes for the both of them. However, each of head of PUK bloc in Kirkuk Rebwar Taha and an MP of PUK Muhammad Osman insisted that they will file a lawsuit against those who wage ‘accusations’ against them.