Iowa caucuses turn into fiasco for Democrats
Democratic race in disarray as official results are delayed
DES MOINES: Iowa's vote kick-starting this year's US presidential contest degenerated into a fiasco, with Mr Bernie Sanders eager to claim a slim lead in the Democratic caucuses despite the lack of official results.
Iowa is a closely-watched test in the months-long process to determine who will face US President Donald Trump in November, but chaos ensued on Monday night as Democratic party officials reportedly told campaigns not to expect an outcome soon.
In a statement read on US networks, Ms Mandy McClure, communications director at the Iowa Democratic Party, said further checks were ordered after "inconsistencies" were found in the reporting of three sets of results.
"This is simply a reporting issue," she said, denying there was "a hack or an intrusion".
The embarrassment is particularly bad timing as US officials are under pressure to demonstrate the integrity of the voting system following 2016, when Russia stood accused of interfering in the presidential election in an effort to help Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Former vice-president Joe Biden's campaign counsel Dana Remus wrote a stern letter to Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price complaining of the "considerable flaws" of the night's caucus.
"We believe the campaigns deserve full explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control you are employing, and an opportunity to respond, before any official results are released."
Mr Trump called the Democrats incompetent. "The Democrat caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the country," he wrote on Twitter.
Alluding to the fact that he won the Republican caucuses in the Midwestern farm state, Mr Trump said "the only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is 'Trump'".
Despite the lack of certainty, Mr Pete Buttigieg, former consultant and Harvard graduate who became a mayor at 29, was quick to claim victory.
Figures released by the Sanders campaign, five hours after the caucuses opened across Iowa, showed Mr Buttigieg in second spot, a strong showing for the candidate who was a national unknown just one year ago.
"Iowa you have shocked the nation," the 38-year-old gay military reservist told cheering supporters in what sounded very much like a victory speech.
"Because tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality."
Mr Sanders, running as a democratic socialist, also took to the microphones to proclaim he had "a good feeling we're going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa".
"Tonight in this enormously consequential 2020 election, the first state in the country has voted, and today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump," said the 78-year-old. - AFP