Vote recount double-bladed sword for Iraq to end political deadlock

08:28, April 20, 2010      

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An Iraqi appeals court in charge of reviewing alleged electoral frauds ordered a manual recount of votes in Baghdad on Monday, raising possibilities of a change in the initial results of the country's pivotal national poll last month and a delay of government formation.

Iraq's electoral authorities did not specify the scale of recount in the capital, a key province with the largest share of 70 seats in the new 325-member parliament.

The Iraqia List headed by Ayad Allawi, an interim prime minister in 2004 and 2005, won 91 seats, two more than the State of Law alliance led by incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, according to the preliminary results. Baghdad contributed 24 seats to Allawi's bloc and 26 to Maliki's coalition.

The two leading blocs have been battling to form the next government. Maliki, who seeks a second term, had demanded a recount in five provinces, including Baghdad. Some seat-winning members of the Iraqia List face disqualifications over alleged links to the outlawed Baath Party, which dominated Iraqi politics during Saddam Hussein's regime.

More than six weeks after the election, signs of progress in solving disputes finally emerge. But it is hard to say whether a recount is good or bad news for Iraqis, with many other election- related disputes unresolved.

In response to fraud allegations, a recount is one of the steps needed to end the political deadlock, as all blocs should accept the final results approved by the country's Supreme Court.

But the recount means a delayed announcement of the final results and thus a prolonged government formation. The process certainly does no good to the country's volatile security situation. Baghdad alone has recently been hit by a string of bomb attacks allegedly planned by al-Qaida-linked militants. More than 100 were killed and hundreds of others injured in the latest violence.

On Monday, Iraqi authorities and U.S. troops announced two top al-Qaida leaders were killed in a joint raid early Sunday. Despite the crackdown, active militants will continue to use the current " political vacuum" to create more bloodshed.

A recount may change the seat ranking of the two leading blocs with just a gap of two seats. And any change in seat numbers is likely to bring about more subsequent political rows.

Thus the bitter fight between Maliki and Allawi will not end soon, as long as both are eyeing the prime minister post and the right to form a coalition government.

Allawi insists it is the Iraqia List, the largest single bloc in the new parliament, who should form the new government. But Maliki says he also has the right if his new coalition has the most seats, according to a Supreme Court's interpretation that the largest bloc to form the government can be an alliance formed after the election.

There is a consensus among leading political figures that the new Iraqi government should include all major blocs. But competition for the powerful posts such as prime minister has made it difficult for a quick birth of a national unity government.

It may take months for Iraq to have a new government. Allawi has warned that Iraq will see chaos if there is no new government when the U.S. troops in the country are cut down to around 50,000 by the end of August.



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