Wed, May 21, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Al-Maliki leads elections with 94 seats

PEOPLE’S CHOICE:Final results are not expected in weeks, but the size of the Iraqi prime minister’s victory places him in a strong position to form a new government

Reuters, BAGHDAD

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote on April 30, in the nation’s first parliamentary election since US troops withdrew, at a polling station in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

Photo: AFP

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won the largest share of parliamentary seats in last month’s national elections, dealing a blow to Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish rivals who opposed his serving a third term.

Preliminary results on Monday showed al-Maliki won at least 94 seats, far more than his two main Shiite rivals — the movement of Moqtada al-Sadr, which picked up 28 seats, and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which won 29 seats.

The size of al-Maliki’s victory, with 1,074,000 votes for his list in Baghdad alone, will make it much harder for any of his opponents to argue he is not the choice of the country’s Shiite majority.

It is particularly important to him because his government is fighting a war with armed Sunni groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which holds territory in Syria and holds sway around central Iraq.

His supporters’ celebratory gunfire was heard in central Baghdad late on Monday afternoon.

Al-Maliki picked up 92 seats on his formal State of Law blocs, and another two seats through minority candidates affiliated with him who ran their own campaigns.

Kurds gained a total of 62 parliamentary seats, while Sunnis won at least 33 seats between their two main coalitions. A secular bloc, headed by former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi, took 21 seats.

Final results are expected in the coming weeks after the electoral commission rules on complaints of voter fraud and irregularities. The federal court then certifies the results.

“Maliki’s position is strong,” said former national security adviser Muwafak al Rubaie, a candidate on al-Maliki’s political slate, who emphasized the prime minister’s experience as commander in chief.

“Because of Syria and regional polarization, security will be very important for the next four years,” he said.

Al-Maliki will now start a period of bargaining to see if he can bring on board his Shiite rivals, who have rejected his candidacy.

The government is formed as a package deal with the 328-member parliament approving the president by a two-thirds majority. He then asks the prime minister to form his Cabinet. It could take anywhere from three months to the end of the year, one member of al-Maliki’s list said.

If a two-thirds majority cannot be reached, political parties argue that the parliament could approve the president by a simple majority, ending any effort to block a new government from being formed.

Al-Maliki’s critics accuse him of leading the country to ruin. They say that four more years will turn the government into a despotic regime and risk Iraq’s breakup.

They fault him for his prosecution of his war on ISIL in western Anbar Province that has raged for five months, displaced more than 420,000 Sunnis and failed to put a dent in violence around the country.

The ISCI and the Sadrists have made clear they want a prime minister chosen from within the Shiite majority — what they refer to as the National Alliance.

In the weeks since the April 30 election, as news leaked of al-Maliki’s anticipated victory margin, the ISCI and the Sadrists’ best hope appeared to be pressuring the prime minister to choose a successor from his State of Law coalition.

However, Monday’s results make it highly unlikely al-Maliki will feel any need to step aside. Smaller Shiite parties, whom ISCI and the Sadrists sought to woo are already lining up behind the prime minister.

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