Iraqi election commission says Kirkuk voting stations under siege

Iraqi election commission says Kirkuk voting stations under siege

"We need Iraqi security to be sent to Kirkuk immediately to protect the lives of Electoral Commission staff members who are now surrounded by protesters", Taha said in the announcement. But elections commissioner Riad al-Badran, who had alleged the armed takeover of the election office, said election workers were unable to send results from 186 ballot boxes.

"The employees of the commission are in a hostage situation", he said, calling on authorities to provide protection.

About 90 percent of votes from Kirkuk, an ethnically-mixed oil province at the heart of a long-running dispute with the Kurds, have been counted, Badran said.

Kirkuk's governor Rakan al-Jubouri called for a manual recount of votes, a call supported by Turkmen in the province as well. The city's Arab and Turkmen communities side with the central government.

In the province of Dohuk in the Kurdish region, IHEC figures showed the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masoud Barzani, was in the first place, accounting for 89 percent of the votes, while the Kurdistan Islamic Union followed.

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"Tension is mounting in Kirkuk as Turkmen continue to demonstrate for their rights", al-Salihi said.

Iraq rolled out a new electronic voting system for the first time for Saturday's nationwide parliamentary elections, leading many voters to complain of irregularities. Reports indicate that Sairoon - an alliance between the Sadrist Movement and Iraq's Communist Party - won more than 1.3 million votes, gaining 54 in a 329-seat parliament.

The Commission had announced earlier that the turnout which stood at 44 percent was lower than any other elections since 2003.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Iraqis to respect the results.

Turnout was 44 percent, the lowest since the 2003 US -led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

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