Dozens of Turkmens in Iraq's Kirkuk went on a hunger strike Thursday to protest the preliminary results of Saturday's parliamentary election, which they say were manipulated.
Turkmen and Arabs in oil-rich Kirkuk say the recently announced poll results, especially those for Kirkuk and Erbil, were manipulated and demand a manual recount."Fifty of our young people are on a hunger strike," confirmed Murat Turkmen, the head of the Turkmen Youth and Students Union, a local NGO, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday.
In the runup 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.
"They are determined to see a manual recount due to suspected fraud and manipulation," he added.
Disputes between Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities led to a curfew being imposed in Kirkuk city on the night of the vote, with clashes and sit-in protests. The hunger strike, Turkmen said, was aimed at "raising awareness about the vote-rigging and highlighting the failure of those who would betray the will of the Turkmen people."
"Initial poll results defied our expectations, despite the participation of hundreds of thousands of Turkmen voters in Kirkuk," he explained.
He added, "We are now awaiting the central government's support for a manual recount, along with the support of the United Nations and international organizations."Unofficial results were released earlier this week. Later Friday, Iraq's official electoral commission was expected to announce final results. After final results are announced, political parties will have the chance to formally lodge their objections with the electoral commission. The Iraqi government, meanwhile, has instructed the commission to process all appeals with transparency and to look into all claims of vote-rigging "in accordance with the law."
According to preliminary results, Muqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon coalition came in first in Saturday's polls, followed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Victory coalition and the Hashd al-Shaabi-linked al-Fatih bloc.
The U.N. on Thursday also called for Iraq's electoral commission to conduct a full investigation of complaints by candidates and parties.
"The commission has to act expeditiously in order to seriously address all complaints," the U.N.'s envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said in a statement.
The U.N. cited partial recounts in some locations, including Kirkuk. "It is important these are undertaken in full transparency, witnessed by stakeholders, to strengthen... confidence in the process," Kubis added.
The vote, the first in Iraq since the government declared victory against the Daesh terrorist group in December, is also the first to have taken place without significant political violence since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.