Iraqi Turkmen in Kirkuk declare hunger strike over poll

KIRKUK, Iraq (AA) – Dozens of Turkmen in Iraq’s Kirkuk province have declared a hunger strike to protest the initial 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 recount.

“Fifty of our young people have declared an open-ended hunger strike,” Murat Turkmen, the head of the Turkmen Youth and Students Union, a local NGO, told Anadolu Agency.

“They are determined to see a manual recount due to suspected fraud and manipulation,” he added.

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 UN and international organizations.”

Unofficial results were released earlier this week. Later Friday, Iraq’s official electoral commission is 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 “utmost 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.