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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

14 February 2005

Iraq Election Results Set Stage for Coalition Building

Three parties win largest share of the vote

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – More than 8.5 million Iraqis defied threats of violence and terrorist attacks to cast their ballots January 30 in the country's first open, multiparty democratic elections in more than half a century. Voter turnout was slightly above 58 percent.

After two weeks of tallying the votes and investigating polling irregularities, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) announced the results of the election on February 13.

About a dozen political entities, out of the 111 on the ballot, received enough votes to be eligible for seats in the 275-member Transitional National Assembly. The final allocation of seats will not take place, however, until the conclusion of a three-day challenge period during which candidates may contest the results.

The United Iraqi Alliance, headed by Abdul Aziz Hakim, received the largest share of the vote, winning 48.2 percent of the ballots cast. The Kurdistan Alliance, which brings together Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, will have the second largest delegation to the Assembly, having won 25.7 percent of the vote. The Iraqi List, led by current Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, came in third with 13.8 percent of the vote.

The IECI will certify the election results after the close of the challenge period. If the final results are consistent with the current numbers, it is likely that no party will have an absolute majority. Furthermore, no single party is close to the two-thirds majority that is necessary to name the three-member Presidency Council, which is the Assembly's first order of business.

While the Presidency Council serves a largely ceremonial function, it is entrusted with the task of appointing a prime minister, who will exercise the majority of executive and administrative powers. The prime minister and his or her Council of Ministers is subject to approval by a majority vote in the Assembly.

Since no one party is likely to have a clear majority, the parties will have to engage in negotiations and coalition building in order to make governmental appointments and enact legislation.

According to the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the Assembly must also muster a two-thirds majority to overturn presidential vetoes of proposed legislation.

The primary task of the Assembly is to draft a constitution. Several political leaders who fared poorly in the elections have indicated that they are still interested in participating in the constitutional process. This is in keeping with the provisions of the TAL that says the Assembly shall proceed with this task "by encouraging debate on the constitution through regular general public meetings in all parts of Iraq and through the media, and receiving proposals from the citizens of Iraq as it writes the constitution."

According to the TAL, it has until August 15 to propose a draft of the document to the Iraqi people, who will vote on it in a referendum October 15. If the voters approve the constitution, it will serve as the basis for a new election December 15 to establish a constitutional government.

"This is a birth for Iraq, a free Iraq," said IECI spokesman Farid Ayar as he released the election results February 13.

In a statement February 13, President Bush said, "I congratulate the Iraqi people for defying terrorist threats and setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom. And I congratulate every candidate who stood for election and those who will take office once the results are certified."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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