Early Iraq poll results show tight race

March 13th, 2010 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, March 13 (DPA) As early results from Iraq’s parliamentary elections trickled in, leading politicians Saturday began what promised to be complicated negotiations on forming a government.
Iraqi state television reported that only 18 percent of the vote had been counted in Baghdad, by far the largest electoral prize in the race, and that only 16 percent of votes had been tallied in the key cities of Mosul and Karbala.

The slow pace of tallying the returns has led politicians from across the political spectrum to cry foul.

As Iraqi politicians traded accusations of fraud, senior Shiite cleric Abdel-Mahdi al-Karbala’i used his Friday sermon to urge the electoral commission to announce the results quickly, to avoid “suspicions and doubts” about the fairness of the elections.

Results announced so far point to a tight race between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and former prime minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi List, with an alliance of mostly religious Shiite parties close behind.

Abdallah Iskandar, a member of parliament running with the State of Law coalition, Saturday told DPA that he expected the coalition to win 100 seats in the new parliament.

“There are no red lines in the State of Law’s negotiations on forming a coalition,” he said, adding that a broad coalition would be in “the best interests of the new Iraq.”

So far, al-Maliki’s coalition is leading in three Shiite provinces south of Baghdad, and in the eastern Baghdad district of Rusafa, while Allawi’s coalition was leading in two northern provinces and the north Baghdad district of al-Karkh.

The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), whose largest member is the Shiite Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (SICI), is leading in early results from the southern province of Maysan, and is running second place in three other provinces and the Baghdad district of Rusafa.

If the INA continues to fare well when final results are announced, its seats could provide a crucial component in a coalition government.

But Ammar al-Hakim, who heads the SICI, and al-Maliki are traditional rivals. SICI, the party that holds the most seats in the outgoing parliament, wants the prime minister to be from its ranks.

Al-Maliki’s Dawaa Party wants one of its members to hold the post.

This might suggest an alliance between the INA and Allawi’s Iraqi List.

But the prospects of an INA-Iraqi List alliance are complicated by the fact that SICI’s coalition partners from Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr’s political movement bear a grudge against Allawi for the 2004 military campaign he and US forces waged against them.

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