Monitors question fairness of Iraq's election
Independent election monitors in Iraq have raised significant concerns over the conduct and fairness of last week's national poll.
An Iraqi report details violations across the country and includes evidence of the army and police interfering with voting on March 7.
The report says that in some Iraqi provinces "security forces were urging people to vote for a specific list". Election monitors also observed "the presence of a number of security forces even within the voting hall".
A number of parties have made allegations of fraud, although foreign diplomats say that at least some of these are attempts to discredit the poll by those likely to lose.
The independent report detailing widespread irregularities was compiled by the Tammuz Organisation for Social Development, the Election Integrity Monitoring Team and Shams Network for Monitoring Elections. All three are Iraqi institutions with Western backing.
Supporters of Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, alleged last week that up to 250,000 members of the armed forces had been unable to vote.
Other parties have claimed interference by government officials, allegations backed up in part by election monitors.
In some provinces, voters turned up at polling stations with identity papers for absent or dead family members and managed to vote.
The Independent High Electoral Commission has been criticised repeatedly for the slowness of the counts.
Complete results from the election are expected on March 18 and the final ones -- after any appeals -- are likely in about a month. (© The Times, London)