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Protests allege ballot-rigging in Iraqi elections

IRAQ’S delayed final election results remain in dispute after hundreds of ethnic Turkmen and Arab demonstrators protested outside election offices in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk Governor Rakan al-Jabouri disputed claims that armed men had taken over the offices on Wednesday night, saying there was no sign of weapons at what appeared a peaceful demonstration.

Protesters insist that ballot rigging explains the dominance of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which won the largest share of the Kirkuk vote, with 90 per cent of ballots counted.

Apart from Kurdish Dohuk and ethnically mixed Kirkuk, the Sairoon Alliance of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and Republican Party is the largest election coalition, taking the lead in six provinces, dominating Baghdad and winning 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament.

Sairoon did not contest those two provinces, where the Sadrist alliance has no structures and the ICP organises separately as the Kurdistan Communist Party.

The holy Shi’ite city of Najaf has a woman communist MP for the first time, where teacher, anti-poverty activist and women’s rights campaigner Suhad al-Khateeb was elected.

Ms Khateeb had not planned to stand, but “people visited me at school. They looked up to me and saw me as a role model of how a politician should be,” she said.

ICP general secretary Raid Jahid Fahmi has explained that his party and the Sadrists agreed to focus on fighting unemployment and corruption and combating external influence rather than on ideological differences evident in issues like women's rights or secularism.

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