BAGHDAD, July 28 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sacked five local election officials on Saturday on charges of corruption during the May 12 parliamentary election, a spokesman for the Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC) said.
The move comes as Iraq conducts a manual recount of the ballots - a move likely to speed up the ratification of the final result and the formation of a new government.
Abadi had appointed a special committee to investigate claims of vote-rigging in several regions, and on Saturday he approved its recommendation to dismiss local election chiefs in Kirkuk, Anbar and Salahuddin, Judge Laith Jabr Hamza said in a statement.
Those in charge of overseas election offices in Turkey and Jordan were also dismissed.
“The decision to sack the officials was approved by the prime minister after they committed violations, manipulation and financial corruption,” said Judge Laith Jabr.
The announcement comes the day after Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged for government action to fight corruption amid further protests sweeping the southern provinces - Iraq’s Shi’ite heartland - over the lack of proper government services and jobs.
Vote-rigging allegations centered on the city of Kirkuk, although there have been reports of irregularities in multiple provinces.
Opposition politicians have claimed that the tabulation system in electronic voting machines that were used for the first time during the election were not secure enough from tampering.
In response to the claims, the outgoing parliament in June ordered a nationwide manual recount of the votes.
The law also called for IHEC’s leadership to be replaced by a panel of judges. (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed Editing by Clelia Oziel)