Iraqis Back Ethnic and Religious Leaders

Secular parties cry foul as their disappointing electoral performance emerges.

Iraqis Back Ethnic and Religious Leaders

Secular parties cry foul as their disappointing electoral performance emerges.

Monday, 9 January, 2006
Accusations of fraud and threats of parliamentary boycotts are flying as parties digest the results of the December 15 election, in which Iraqis voted largely along ethnic and religious lines.



With around 90 per cent of the votes counted in the country’s 18 provinces, the Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance looks set to easily remain the largest party in parliament with more than 100 seats.



Though preliminary results show the alliance swept nine provinces plus Baghdad by an overwhelming margin, it seems to have fallen short of the 140 seats it won in January and will not have the two-thirds majority required to appoint a president.



The alliance - which includes the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Dawa Party of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and followers of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr - may therefore have to forge a partnership with at least one other major party or coalition.



In second place is the Kurdistan Alliance, dominated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which took the northern regions of Erbil, Dohuk, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniah.



However, it lost ground to the novice Hewar National Iraqi Front - which scored highly in Kirkuk as well as in three Sunni areas - and may not take the 75 seats it had last time. The coalition is a heterogeneous mix of Arab, Kurdish, Christian and Yezidi elements.



The Iraqi Accord Front, which includes three Sunni Arab groups and ran on a strongly anti-occupation platform, looks to have come third. Though it took Anbar province with a healthy 74 per cent of the vote, its apparent wins in three other Sunni provinces were less convincing.

Former prime minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, the major secular coalition which had promised to unify Iraq, finished a disappointing fourth as Iraqis voted along religious and ethnic lines.



Washington had wanted Allawi to again take the prime minister’s job in the new four-year parliament but that seems unlikely now as his list will have significantly fewer than the 40 seats it currently holds – a blow to those hoping for the rise of moderate secularists.



In populous Baghdad, the Allawi list was a distant third with 14 per cent of the votes; the Iraqi Accord Front getting 19 per cent; and the United Iraqi Alliance 58 per cent. In Basra, the Allawi grouping came second with 11 per cent against the alliance’s 77 per cent.



Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed al-Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress List also fared poorly with early reports suggesting it received only a tiny fraction of the national vote. Chalabi, once a darling of the US government, ran on a platform promising to distribute cash from the oil industry to each Iraqi; and establish a solid tax system and develop industry, agriculture and banking.



Allawi’s list reacted angrily to the news of its poor showing – particularly in Baghdad - claiming the ballot was rigged. They, along with others including secular Sunni leader Saleh Al-Mutlak’s Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, have called for the results to be cancelled and the poll held again. They have also threatened a parliamentary boycott.



Allegations of fraud have been circulating since the December 15 poll, and the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, IECI, is currently investigating around 1,000 complaints – the majority of which involve campaigning offences and voting by people whose names did not appear on the voters’ list. About 20 complaints have been classed as serious, meaning final results won’t be ready until they are investigated. So far, however, electoral officials have rejected the calls for a second vote.



International reaction to the election, which was held under the tightest possible security conditions, has been largely positive.



US president George Bush hailed the ballot as a “major milestone” in the region. Britain’s premier, Tony Blair, meanwhile, congratulated the people of Iraq for “very successful” elections.



The United Nations commended Iraqis for their active participation in the poll, also praising the role of the IECI.



Foreign election monitors were thin on the ground due to safety concerns. The International Mission for Iraq Elections, the principal monitoring organisation, expressed some concern over technical and procedural issues during the poll but said it “generally met international standards”.



"Moreover, early reports indicate that large numbers of Iraqis turned out to vote, which may surpass the turnout figures for the January elections and the October referendum," added Paul Dacey, vice-chair of the IMIE steering committee.



The IECI said turnout was 70 per cent, and significantly higher among Sunnis who boycotted the previous poll. Even insurgent strongholds like Falluja and Ramadi saw queues of voters who had heeded the advice of Sunni leaders to get out and vote to avoid another Shia and Kurd dominated parliament.



Final results aren’t expected until early January and the eventual allocation of seats in the National Assembly will be based on a complex system of proportional representation.



Two hundred and thirty seats will be distributed among the winning party lists in each of Iraq’s provinces according to the number of registered voters.



For example, if an alliance wins a quarter of the votes in a particular province, then it will be given a quarter of the seats allocated to that province. Candidates were listed in order of priority, so the first candidate on the list would be awarded the first seat, the second would get the second seat, and so on.



A further 45 seats will be given as “compensation” to parties who did not win a seat in any province but obtained a significant number of votes nationally. Further complications are added by a rule stipulating that at least 25 per cent of the assembly’s members must be women. Even more confusingly, political parties may stand as part of a coalition in one province and by themselves in another.





Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
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