A Turkmen leader on Monday voiced concern over mounting tension in Iraq’s Kirkuk province, where local Turkmen have taken to the streets to protest alleged electoral fraud.
Arshad al-Salihi, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, alleged that ballots cast for Turkmen parties had been illegally counted as votes for the Sulaymaniyah-based Kurdistan Patriotic Union.
“Tension is mounting in Kirkuk as Turkmen continue to demonstrate for their rights,” al-Salihi said. “We have every intention of sharing our peoples’ displeasure with high officials in Baghdad.”
Since Sunday evening, hundreds of Turkmen have taken to the streets in Kirkuk’s Daquq and Altun Kupri districts to protest alleged polling irregularities.
According to al-Salihi, the alleged vote-rigging had also adversely affected other political parties, including the Movement for Change (Gorran) and the New Generation Movement.
Ali Qadir, an official of Iraq’s official electoral commission based in Erbil, for his part, disputed claims that Saturday’s parliamentary elections had been rigged, dismissing reports that electronic voting machines used in the polls had been “hacked”.
“The electronic voting system was not hacked,” Qadir said, stressing that ballot boxes that had not been appropriately time-stamped would not be counted.
On Saturday, Iraqis voted in the country’s first parliamentary election since 2014.
According to Iraq’s official election commission, some 10.8 million Iraqis -- out of 24 million eligible voters -- took part in the vote, representing a turnout of 44.5 percent.
The polls were held under the shadow of an ongoing economic crisis, deep political polarization and lingering fears of the ISIL terrorist group, which overran much of the country in mid-2014.
In the run-up to the election last week, Turkmen and Arab residents of Kirkuk province had cried foul amid reports of malfunctioning electronic voting machines, which were used for the first time in Iraqi elections.