Iraq begins recount of Baghdad ballots demanded by PM after his narrow loss to challenger

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials have started recounting ballots for Baghdad province as demanded by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who narrowly lost a March 7 parliamentary election.

Election officials have said the manual recount could take between two to three weeks.

Al-Maliki has challenged the vote results, which showed his Shiite coalition with a two-seat deficit to a bloc led by a secular Shiite and heavily backed by Sunni Arabs.

He demanded recounts in five provinces but was only granted one in Baghdad, which accounts for about a fifth of parliament's 325 seats.

Monday's recount and other challenges to the results have delayed the seating of the new legislature and raised fears that the political uncertainty could lead to an uptick in violence.