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Iraq election front-runners woo other parties

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his coalition

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his coalition are in a dead heat with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's bloc. (March 22 2010) Photo Credit: Getty

BAGHDAD - With the complete results in Iraq’s election just days away, there were signs Monday the two front runners were reaching out to other political parties, signaling the start of the jockeying to form the next ruling coalition.
None of the blocs that competed in the March 7 election will
take a majority of the seats in the new, 325-member assembly,
making an alliance between two or more parties inevitable. The last
government took nearly six months of haggling to form.
With 95 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki and his coalition are in a dead heat with former Prime
Minister Ayad Allawi’s bloc and both will need to enlist other
parties into any future governing alliance.
Representatives of al-Maliki’s State of Law met Sunday with his
erstwhile rivals in the Iraqi National Alliance, made up of
religious Shiite parties backed by Iran and with a strong base of
support in Iraq’s southern belt.
Though narrowly trailing his rival by about 11,000 votes,
al-Maliki’s coalition is ahead in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces,
compared to Allawi’s five. That is significant since the allocation
of the parliament’s 325 seats is based on votes counted province by
province and not nationwide.
The party gaining the most seats will be given first crack at
assembling a coalition.
Allawi, a secular Shiite with strong Sunni Arab backing,
traveled north on Sunday to speak with the Kurdish parties.
Both the powerful Kurdish Alliance and the INA will be bringing
to the negotiating table seats from the three provinces in which
they are winning, making them potential kingmakers in any future
government.
The political maneuverings come on the heels of demands by
Iraq’s president Sunday for a recount amid complaints of vote
rigging and fraud. Although the calls were rejected by the
electoral commission, an independent body appointed by parliament,
they underscored a protracted election dispute that could further
complicate the seating of a new government.
In Iraq’s fledgling democracy, such periods of political
instability have often been accompanied by a spike in violence, as
debates not settled at the negotiating table are taken to the
streets.
Qusai Abdul-Wahab of the INA told The Associated Press on Monday
that his bloc was examining options of “getting closer with other
political parties with the aim to form the government.”
In the north, Allawi met with the top Kurdish leaders, including
Massoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region,
and Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani.
Fuad Hussein, a spokesman for the Kurdistan regional government,
wouldn’t divulge any details about the two meetings, describing
them Monday as “consultative before the start of discussions in
earnest once the final results are announced.”
The election commission said it would release 100 percent of the
results on Friday, nearly three weeks after the election. After
that, the commission reviews any additional complaints and then the
Supreme Court must ratify the results, a process that could take
weeks.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead two
municipal officials, according to the police and hospitals.
Authorities said the victims were members of the local municipal
council in Sadr City, an eastern Baghdad district that’s home to an
estimated 2.5 million Shiites.
Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, gunmen in a speeding car fatally
shot two policemen manning a checkpoint on a road in western
Baghdad, according to the police.
While overall violence has dropped considerably in Iraq since
2008, government and local officials remain a prime target for
insurgents or assassins working for organized crime gangs.
———
Associated Press Writers Bushra Juhi, Sameer N. Yacoub and
Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.
AP-ES-03-22-10 1004EDT

 


 

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