Middle East News
Al-Maliki edging ahead in early Iraq election results (Roundup)
Mar 13, 2010, 17:24 GMT
Baghdad - Early election results on Saturday showed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition with a narrow, but widening, lead as election workers continue to count the votes.
If the preliminary results from last week's parliamentary polls announced so far hold when final tallies come in later this month, the vote may split along geographic lines, with al-Maliki's State of Law coalition winning in the south, and former prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List winning in the north.
Al-Maliki's lead looked set to open on Saturday evening, when the electoral commission's Qassim al-Aboudi announced on state television that al-Maliki's bloc was leading the vote in Baghdad.
Baghdad is by far the biggest electoral prize in the contest, with 68 seats out of 325 in the new parliament.
In addition to the incumbent prime minister's lead in the capital, al-Maliki's bloc is leading in early returns from provinces to the south of Baghdad, including in Karbala, where his closest competition was his erstwhile Shiite coalition partners in the Iraqi National Alliance (INA).
Allawi's Iraqi List is leading in the northern province of Nineveh, elections officials announced Saturday, adding to his lead in the northern provinces of Diyala and Salah al-Din. Sunni politicians from Nineveh's Arab-nationalist provincial government had campaigned for Allawi, and his lead there came as little surprise.
The INA, a coalition of mostly Shiite religious parties, including the largest party in the outgoing parliament, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraqi (SICI), was running a close second in the capital, and was showing a narrow lead in the southern province of Qadisiya, the electoral commission announced Saturday.
Those early results, combined with the INA's lead in the southern province of Maysan and strong second place showings in provinces where al-Maliki's coalition is leading, may well give the INA a crucial role in forming a new government.
Abdallah Iskandar, a member of parliament running with the State of Law coalition, on Saturday told the German Press Agency dpa that he expected the coalition to win 100 seats in the new parliament, and opened the door to negotiations with former rivals.
'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.'
Ammar al-Hakim, who heads the SICI, recently used almost the same words to describe his coalition's attitude toward negotiations on forming a government.
'There are no red lines,' he said of the INA's attitude toward negotiations on selecting a new prime minister, in remarks widely quoted in the Iraqi media.
Many interpreted al-Hakim's remarks as an overture to Allawi. Al- Maliki and al-Hakim 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.