More Sunnis vote in Iraq as violence decreases: U.S. expert

10:36, March 18, 2010      

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by Ran Wei

Sunni participation are high in Iraq's recent parliamentary election as violence has decreased, said a U.S. expert on Middle East affairs on Tuesday.

"The most striking difference is the much higher participation by Sunni voters," Marina Ottaway, the Director of Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said during an interview with Xinhua.

The Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC) said on March 8 that the turnout in the country's parliamentary elections was 62.4 percent, which is lower than the almost 70 percent turnout in the previous election at the end of 2005.

"But Sunnis participated in greater numbers, and it has solved one problem existed in the last five years which is Sunnis were underrepresented," said Ottaway.

"The (security) situation has improved a lot because a lot of groups there supporting al-Qaeda and armed resistance against the U.S. have now stopped their resistance and reconciled themselves first with the government of Maliki and then with other political parties," she said.

She believed that as long as those groups "do not go back to armed actions", the Iraqi security forces will be able to maintain the security in the country.

"Neither Maliki or Allawi can form the government only by their party because none of the party has over 50 percent of the votes," Ottaway said.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki, the two main contenders in the elections, have been in a tight race since the ballots count began.

According to latest reports from Iraq, Allawi's Iraqia bloc took a slender lead with about 9,000 votes over Maliki's State of Law coalition in the overall count of the roughly 79 percent of ballots cast announced late Tuesday out of about 12 million votes of the March 7 polls.

"Forming of the new government depends on whether Maliki of Allawi can succeed in building the largest alliance. The one who wins is the one who gets the support of the Kurds and Iraqi National Alliance," Ottaway said.

Source: Xinhua
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