BAGHDAD — Iraq’s president Sunday demanded a recount in this month’s historic parliamentary elections, intensifying the political conflict over the not-yet-completed tally and increasing the chances that the vote will be a long, chaotic test of the nascent democracy.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition is narrowly trailing in the overall vote tally to one led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, with 95 percent of the vote counted. President Jalal Talabani, whose own coalition is losing to Allawi’s secular alliance in a key province, invoked the power of his office in calling for a recount.

On his official Web site, Talabani demanded that the Independent High Electoral Commission manually recount the ballots to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” about the results. He said he was making the demand “as the president of the state, authorized to preserve the constitution and to ensure justice and absolute transparency.”

Al-Maliki on Saturday called on the election commission to quickly respond to requests from political blocs for a recount.

The commission has rejected such calls, and Iraqi law empowers neither Talabani nor al-Maliki to force the issue. The panel is an independent body appointed by parliament, and submits its results only to the country’s supreme court for ratification.

A recount or a protracted election dispute could complicate the seating of a new government. In Iraq’s fledgling democracy, such periods of political instability have often been accompanied by violence, as debates not settled at the negotiating table are taken to the streets.

The process of counting ballots cast in the March 7 election has been criticized by some Iraqi politicians as being plagued with fraud, although international observers have said the vote and count have been fair. Election officials have been handing out results in piecemeal fashion, creating the appearance of a tallying process in disarray.

The head of the election commission urged the political parties to be patient Sunday and scoffed at the idea that a manual recount would be any more accurate than the computerized count nearing completion.

“If you do not believe in the most advanced counting technologies, then how are you going to believe in an employee using pen and paper?” Faraj al-Haidari asked.

Sunday marked the first time Talabani has weighed in on the counting process. His party is part of the Kurdish Alliance, which is narrowly losing to Allawi’s Iraqiya alliance in the key Tamim province in the north. The province is home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by both Arabs and Kurds, and an Iraqiya win would be a blow to Kurdish claims on the city.


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