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Maliki Coalition Ahead In Early Iraqi Vote Count

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 11.03.2010 15:58

Partial preliminary results from Iraq's parliamentary elections suggest that the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is taking the largest share of votes but appears unlikely to win a majority.

Iraq's election commission today published the early figures, based on a count of one-third of the ballots in two largely Shi'ite southern provinces in Iraq, Babil, and Al-Najaf.

Maliki's coalition brings together his own Al-Dawah party and Shi'ite Kurds, plus a sprinkling of Sunni tribal leaders, some Christians and independents.

State of Law won the lion's share of the vote in the January 2009 Iraqi provincial elections after campaigning on a program of security and strong central government.

Second in the parliamentary election in the two southern provinces so far is the Iraq National Alliance, which is lead by two Shi'ite religious parties, namely the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the grouping around radical Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The National Alliance is pro-Iranian.

Lying third, well behind the other two, is the secular, cross-sectarian Al-Iraqiyah list, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The results issued today are considered too narrow a sample to indicate the likely outcome of the national election. The Allawi bloc, for instance, is thought likely to have done well in Sunni areas but not necessarily in mainly Shi'a-dominated electorates.

But the early figures do appear to confirm that no one party or grouping will have the numbers to form a government on its own.

Even before today's figures were released, reports from Baghdad said that the leaders or representatives of the various factions were meeting to sound out possibilities for alliance-building.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has called in an Internet statement for "extensive and sincere efforts by all political blocs to form a real national unity government." He said the next government must deliver security, services and better relations with neighboring countries.

The March 7 vote was only the country's second parliamentary election since the adoption of a new constitution after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime seven years ago, following the U.S.-led invasion.

The top United Nations envoy in Iraq, special representative Ad Melkert, has praised the conduct of the election. In remarks on March 10 at the electoral commission, Melkert called the counting of votes "honest" and said the world has been "impressed" by the professional way the vote took place.

But some of the contesting parties nevertheless are suspicious. A spokeswomanfor Allawi's Al-Iraqiyah bloc, Maysun Damaluji, has been quoted by Reuters as saying her party fears the count is not being conducted in a "proper fashion." She did not explain how, and she stopped short of alleging fraud, but said that the results could be "modified" by the improper counting methods.

The same agency quoted Adnan al-Janabi, a senior Al-Iraqiyah member, as telling reporters that "We have recorded dozens of violations and there is interference from some officials."

The Iraqi National Alliance likewise complained of what it called "signs of intentions to change the election results." It did not specify these signs. Both parties urged the electoral commission to put the tally sheets of each province on the commission's website so that candidates and parties can count their votes manually.

Complete provisional results are expected to be announced by next week, and the final official results by the end of March. Individuals or parties will be able to lodge appeals before the final results are announced.

A successful, valid election has been viewed as an essential building block for Iraq's further development as a unified democratic state.

Time is short for a new government to settle-in and shoulder the responsibility for domestic security through Iraq's own security forces.

The United States plans to withdraw all its combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

compiled from agency reports


Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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