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Mar 26th, 2010

Challenger Wins Most Seats in Iraq Election

Prime minister’s coalition comes in second, disputes election results

Image: Ayad Allawi
Ayad Allawi, left, earned the right to get the first shot at trying to form an Iraqi government. (Photo credit: Karim Kadim / AP)

March 26, 2010

BAGHDAD — Former U.S.-backed prime minister Ayad Allawi and his secular, anti-Iranian coalition narrowly won Iraq’s parliamentary elections in final returns Friday, edging out the bloc of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who angrily vowed to challenge the results.

If Allawi’s coalition remains on top, it will get the first opportunity to form a parliamentary majority and Iraq’s next government, and complete his emergence from what once appeared to be the political graveyard. But they do not automatically mean that he will become prime minister, and the narrow margin sets the stage for months of political wrangling.

A coalition including anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr finished a strong third and could end up playing the role of kingmaker. Kurdish parties also could be crucial in determining who will rule the oil-rich Arab nation of 28 million people. …

“On this occasion, I’d like to congratulate the Iraqi people and extend the hand of friendship to all neighboring and world countries,” said Allawi, a secular Shiite politician who appealed across sectarian lines to minority Sunnis who have been out of power since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhoods, the site of vicious sectarian fighting just a few years ago, erupted in cheering, honking of horns and celebratory gunfire in support of the man they have endorsed as their own. …

U.S. withdrawal

But the results released Friday portend an ugly, protracted battle. No coalition is close to the 163 seats needed to control the 325-seat parliament.

Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition won 91 seats to 89 for al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc. The Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious group dominated by al-Sadr’s followers, won about 70 seats, and Kurdish parties picked up 51. …

Iraqiya’s win also shows that many Iraqis are suspicious of Iranian influence. Allawi was widely seen as closer to the region’s Arab governments than to neighboring Shiite Iran.

The next prime minister will lead a government that presumably will be in power when the U.S. completes its scheduled troop withdrawal from Iraq next year. There has been fear among some in the West that a U.S. withdrawal would effectively leave Iraq as an Iranian puppet.

Al-Maliki, the U.S. partner in Iraq for the past four years, announced in a nationally televised news conference that he would not accept the results.

Gesturing angrily, he said he would challenge the vote count through what he described as legal process. …

U.N., U.S. back results

The top U.N. official in Iraq, Ad Melkert, called on all sides to accept the results. That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military official in Iraq, who praised what they described as a “historic electoral process,” and said they support the finding of election observers who found no evidence of widespread or serious fraud.

Hours before the results were announced, two bombings near a restaurant in a city north of Baghdad killed at least 40 people — a harbinger of a spike in violence that many Iraqis fear could accompany lengthy negotiations on forming a coalition government.

An increase in attacks could complicate U.S. plans to reduce troop levels from 95,000 to 50,000 by the end of August. All U.S. forces are slated to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. …

Significant challenges

Allawi will face significant challenges finding allies.

For starters, many of his Sunni backers are anathema to the country’s Kurdish population, who are considered key to any coalition. The Kurds have often clashed with Sunni Arabs in disputed territories that the Kurds claim stretching from the Syrian border to the Iranian border. …

Image: Supporters of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chant anti-Baathist slogans at a protest in Baghdad
Khalid Mohammed / AP
Supporters of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chant anti-Baathist slogans at a protest in Baghdad on Friday, March 26, 2010.


Many Shiites also view Allawi’s Sunni allies as little more than Saddam-era holdovers hoping for a return to the Baathist regime who once ruled the country.

Followers of al-Sadr, meanwhile, have a deep-rooted distrust of al-Maliki, who routed their militias and jailed thousands of their supporters. That could help draw them to Allawi’s coalition.

Political survivor

Allawi, who once fought off an assassination attempt by a machete-wielding assailant believed to be sent by Saddam, has shown a keen instinct for political survival.

In the current campaign, Allawi’s bloc provided a stark contrast to the religious orientation of the two large, Shiite-led coalitions led by the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or SIIC, and al-Maliki’s Dawa Party. His political rallies were Western in style, with music and dancing, while the religious parties held more sober rallies. …


4/1/10 Update

Iraq health official killed at his Baghdad home (AP, April 1, 2010) — Gunmen armed with silenced pistols fatally shot a Health Ministry official at his home in Baghdad in an apparent targeting of government employees, according to Iraqi police. The killing, one of a number of scattered attacks late Wednesday and into Thursday, comes amid growing concerns that the political uncertainty created by last month’s indecisive elections could lead to more violence as U.S. forces prepare to accelerate their withdrawal in the coming months. … Full story


4/3/10 Update

Gunmen Execute 25 in Iraq

Sunni fighters who took on al-Qaida targeted


Gunmen kill dozens in Iraq raids (NBC “Today,” April 3, 2010) — According to officials, many of the victims were so-called “Sons of Iraq,” former insurgents who later teamed up with U.S. forces fighting members of al-Qaida. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports. (00:18)

By Elizabeth A. Kennedy

April 3, 2010

BAGHDAD — Gunmen in Iraqi military uniforms raided a village outside Baghdad and killed at least 24 people in an execution-style attack, apparently targeting a Sunni group that revolted against al-Qaida and helped turn the tide of the Iraq war, authorities said Saturday.

The attack late Friday comes amid increasing concerns that insurgents will take advantage of Iraq’s political turmoil to further destabilize the country, nearly a month after parliamentary elections failed to give any candidate a decisive win. Many fear a drawn-out political debate could spill over into violence and complicate American efforts to speed up troop withdrawals in the coming months.

Some of the victims in Friday’s attack suffered broken arms and legs, indicating they had been tortured before they were shot, police said. One witness said many of the victims were so badly brutalized that they were “beyond recognition.” Five of the dead were women.

At least seven people were found alive, bound with handcuffs, authorities said. …

Many of the dead were members of a local Sahwa, or Awakening Council — one of several names for the Sunni fighters who changed the course of the war when they revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans in late 2006 and 2007, officials said. The fighters also are known as Sons of Iraq.

The killings are reminiscent of those that plagued Baghdad at the height of the sectarian bloodshed of 2006 and 2007, when men, sometimes dressed in police or army uniforms, snatched people from their houses at night before killing them and dumping the bodies.

Similar violence still plagues the country, although not as frequently. …

A senior Iraqi army official who arrived at the scene of the crime Friday evening said the bodies were handcuffed and had been sprayed up and down with machine gun fire. …

Friday’s bloodshed coincides with dealmaking maneuvers by Iraq’s major political groups. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s cross-sectarian bloc tapped into heavy Sunni support to come in just two seats ahead of the mainly Shiite list of the incumbent, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the March 7 vote.

But neither side has enough seats to govern alone. On Friday and Saturday, an influential anti-American cleric — and potential kingmaker — held an unofficial poll of his supporters, asking them to decide which candidate he should throw his support behind.

The poll has no legal standing and there is no way to verify the winner, who will get the backing of some 39 Sadrists who won parliamentary seats in the March 7 election. …


4/4/10 Update

Gunmen in Military Garb Kill At Least 24 in Sunni Area South of Baghdad

By Leila Fadel and Jinan Hussein
The Washington Post
March 4, 2010


BAGHDAD — Gunmen pretending to be Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers killed at least 24 people here, shooting some and slitting others’ throats as they moved from house to house, officials and residents said Saturday. …

Iraqi officials and local residents said they believed that the killings south of Baghdad were carried out by Sunni insurgents seeking to avenge the tribes’ defiance and terrify the local population. But there were competing assertions that the killers were Shiites, who formed death squads to kill Sunnis during Iraq’s darkest days and who might now be seeking to strike back against the surprising political clout that Sunnis displayed in last month’s parliamentary elections. …

Accounts of the incident differed, but residents said … [the gunmen] walked to the house of Shaker Hamid, a member of the Awakening. The gunmen locked women and children in one room and took five men to the roof, where they slit their throats. … At least 16 people were shot in two other houses, residents said. …

According to Qassim al-Aamree, whose sister-in-law was killed in the attack, the gunmen carried a list and called out names of residents, lined them up as they approached and shot them. …

The period of uncertainty since the March 7 elections is expected to last well into the summer, and many officials worry that political battles could incite violence, potentially destabilizing the already fragile country as U.S. forces draw down. …


Related reports on this site

Muqtada al-Sadr on the March (April 1, 2010)

Iraq Election Preview (March 6, 2010)

Iraq Set to Elect Pro-Iran Leader (Feb. 25, 2010)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 26, 2009

Image: Justin Shults
Pfc. Justin Shults shows some of the burn wounds he received after being electrocuted in a shower facility in Iraq, in this photo taken in January 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. Shults suffered third-degree burns on 13 percent of his body. He is suing contractor KBR Inc. for faulty wiring of the facility. (Photo credit: Kin Man Hui / San Antonio Express-News via AP)

Showers Put Troops in Harm’s Way

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that the military was scrambling to inspect more than 90,000 U.S.-run facilities across Iraq to reduce a deadly threat troops face off the battlefield: electrocution or shock while showering or using appliances.

9 Responses to “Iraq Election Results”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Muqtada al-Sadr on the March Says:

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  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraq Election Turmoil Says:

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  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Cascade of Violence in Iraq Says:

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  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Muqtada al-Sadr Rises to Power Says:

    […] Iraq Election Results (March 26, 2010) […]

  6. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » In Iraq, ‘Victory’ for Iran Says:

    […] Iraq Election Results (March 26, 2010) […]

  7. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraqi Government Seated 9 Months After Election Says:

    […] Iraq Election Results (March 26, 2010) […]

  8. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraq Election Preview Says:

    […] Iraq Election Results (March 26, 2010) […]

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