Tough road for Iraqi ex-premier to gain power amid post-election jockeying

16:55, April 05, 2010      

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by Xinhua Writer Li Laifang

Iraq's top vote-getter Ayad Allawi needs to fight hard to secure its slender victory and the right to form a coalition government as his major rival, sitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will not let go any chance of seeking a second term.

The cross-sectarian Iraqia List led by Allawi, Iraq's interim prime minister in 2004 and 2005, won 91 seats in the new 325- member parliament, while Maliki's State of Law Alliance got 89 seats, according to preliminary poll results.

The fact that no single bloc won more than 163 seats makes it necessary to form a coalition government, as the country's constitution says the designated prime minister should gain its confidence via the approval by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives.

Challenges for Allawi are multiple. Some seat-winning members of his bloc reportedly face possible disqualification over alleged links to the now outlawed Baath party. His rival Maliki's bloc, which demanded a recount, filed complaints about counting frauds to court.

The Supreme Court's interpretation that the "largest bloc" for government formation can be a new post-election coalition who has the most seats, indicates Allawi may not be the only one capable of forming a coalition government.

Last Wednesday, Maliki said that his bloc would continue negotiations with other blocs to form a new "national partnership government," no matter how long it would take. The sitting prime minister has got ready for a possible long, tough struggle for retaining his post.

The State of Law has carried out talks with another major Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, which gained 70 seats. But no tangible results have come out due to possible hard bargaining between the two blocs' major parties.

Rather, signs of a favorable turn seem to be emerging for Allawi. The head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Ammar al-Hakim, has reportedly said its talks with the State of Law failed. The Shiite cleric said the next government should include Allawi's bloc. To show his support, he refuted allegations that the Iraqia list was a Baathist slate.

But the SIIC, part of the INA, won just around 17 seats in the election. Allawi still needs support from more parties, even if the SIIC stands on its side.

The Iraqia List has reportedly planned to talk with anti- American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won 40 seats, making itself a key kingmaker in the political jockeying. The Sadr movement conducted an informal referendum among its followers over the weekend to decide who the country's new prime minister should be.

Analysts believe the referendum indicates talks between the Sadr movement and the State of Law was unfruitful. Iraqi security forces cracked down on Sadr's militia in 2008.

It may still take a few days to announce the final results approved by the Supreme Court. Thus, a hard battle will continue.

Source: Xinhua


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