Pro-Iranian parties and armed groups have condemned early results of Iraq’s elections such as “manipulation” and “fraud”.
Sunday’s parliamentary election – the fifth in the war-torn country since the US-led invasion and overthrow of ruler Saddam Hussein in 2003 – was marked by a record low turnout of 41 percent.
According to preliminary results from the Election Commission, the biggest winner appeared to be the movement of religious scholar and political maverick Muqtada al-Sadr, who increased his share to 73 of the congregation’s 329 seats.
Losses were booked by pro-Iranian parties with links to the armed groups that make up the combat network known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
The Fateh (Conquest) Alliance, formerly the second largest bloc in parliament, suffered a sharp drop from 48 to a dozen seats, according to observers and results compiled by AFP.
“We will appeal the results and we will reject them,” a joint statement from several parties, including the Fateh Alliance, said on Tuesday.
“We will take all available measures to prevent the manipulation of votes,” added the statement, which was also signed by the party of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who served from 2014 to 2018.
Hadi al-Amiri, one of the most powerful pro-Iranian figures in Iraq, said the results were “fabricated”, according to Baghdad-based pro-Iranian television channel al-Aahd.
“We will not accept these fictitious results, regardless of the price,” the channel quoted him on Tuesday on its Telegram messaging account.
One of Hashd’s most powerful factions, the Hezbollah brigades, dismissed the election as “the biggest scam and rip-off the Iraqi people have faced in modern history.”
“The Hashd al-Shaabi brothers are the main targets,” said its spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari.
Hashd was formed in 2014 and continued to play a major role in the defeat of the ISIL (ISIS) group, which had expanded its self-proclaimed “caliphate” centered in Syria and taken over a third of Iraq.
Hashd has since been integrated into Iraq’s state security apparatus, and many lawmakers linked to it were elected to parliament in 2018.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi presented the 2022 vote to appease a youth-led protest movement that erupted two years ago against corruption, unemployment, disintegrating public services and Iranian political influence.
The protest movement ended after hundreds of protesters were killed. More activists have since targeted bloodshed and abductions blamed on pro-Iran armed groups.
Ali al-Nashmi, a professor of international relations at Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad, told Al Jazeera that the election results seemed likely to be similar to the previous election in 2018.
“Nothing will happen … it[re] [are the] the same leader, the same list, the same schedule and the same plan and goals, nothing will happen on the ground, he says.
“All dreams, all hopes, all demands from the Iraqi people are gone with the wind … many expected that something will change with these elections but maybe [we will see] just a few changes, ”he added.
Iraq is a major oil producer but nearly a third of its nearly 40 million people live in poverty, according to UN figures, and the COVID pandemic only deepened a protracted economic crisis.
Kadhimi’s political future is now uncertain, with few observers willing to predict who will emerge as leaders after the usual bargaining between factions following the Iraqi election.
Another notable trend in the election was the gains of the pro-Iranian State of Law Alliance from former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who served from 2006 to 2014. His party will likely be able to count on about 30 seats.
The European Union’s observer mission said it saw low turnout as a “clear political signal”, hoping it would be “heard by the political elite”.