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Why Iraqi PM has changed his mind on ‘fair’ election

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ImageThe Scotsman:The outcome of the Iraqi election is being challenged by the prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, who initially claimed the poll was free and fair, but has now decided that there has been, after all, widespread cheating. Perhaps this is because former PM Ayad Allawi, won – by 91 seats to 89. The Scotsman

By Brian Binley

ImageTHE outcome of the Iraqi election is being challenged by the prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, who initially claimed the poll was free and fair, but has now decided that there has been, after all, widespread cheating. Perhaps this is because former PM Ayad Allawi, won – by 91 seats to 89.

Maliki should be believed when he says there has been widespread cheating – his side were involved in most of it.

Scots Tory MEP Struan Stevenson has claimed that, after he published an e-mail address and invited Iraqis to contact him with evidence of fraud, he received hundreds of letters and e-mails from inside Iraq and elsewhere. Stevenson, who heads the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, tried to take a team of election observers to Iraq, but was refused permission on security grounds. Instead, he used the internet as an ad hoc election observation unit. The results were deeply concerning.

The Iranian regime, forever keen to meddle in Iraq's affairs, moved heaven and earth to try to stop the non-sectarian, secularist and nationalist parties winning seats. They were behind the illegal banning of some 500 candidates from standing, on trumped-up charges that they were sympathetic to the former Baathist regime. In fact, the one thing most of these candidates had in common was vigorous opposition to Iranian meddling.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis were refused permission to cast their votes in Europe on spurious grounds relating to an alleged lack of proper identification.

According to allegations sent to Stevenson by Iraqi citizens and officials, at the end of polling, election observers were ordered to leave voting stations, doors were locked and ballot boxes were stuffed with pro-Maliki votes, while pro-Allawi ballot papers were marked with a second tick to invalidate them.

Stevenson has now sent a report detailing the most serious allegations to EU foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton. The Delegation for Relations with Iraq has asked him to send a copy to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Baghdad, with a request that they investigate the claims.

Maliki is demanding a complete recount of every single vote. This would provide his faction with another opportunity to cheat.

Meanwhile, lest America's troop withdrawal plans are thwarted, the EU, the US and the UN see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, insisting the election was largely fair.

• Brian Binley is a Conservative MP.

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