The Uncertified Election Results: Allawi Comes Out on Top
By Reidar Visser (www.historiae.org)
26 March 2010
The Iraqi elections commission, IHEC, has today released the full, uncertified results of the 7 March parliamentary elections. The distribution of the seats has been specified at the entity level for all the 325 deputies in the next assembly.
The differences with the situation as reported in earlier counts (and calculated in accordance with IHEC regulation 21) are minimal. The secular-nationalist Iraqiyya (INM) comes out on top with 91 seats (89 ordinary and 2 compensation), followed by State of Law (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki second at 89 seats (87+2), the Iraqi National Alliance at 70 seats (68+2) and the Kurdistan Alliance at 43 seats (42+1, having apparently made some serious headway in the final count). The distribution of minority seats appeared to be on the pattern forecasted previously. The full distribution of seats is as follows:
The names of the winning candidates (based on how the electorate used the open-list option to promote individuals within a list) have yet to be published; this will be done at the IHEC website and in Iraqi newspapers tomorrow. The identity of the winners of the seven compensation seats (two for each of the three big lists and one for the Kurdish list) will be withheld pending a query to the federal supreme court about the rules for their allocation to individuals.
Ayad Allawi and Iraqiyya now go strengthened into the coalition-forming process. By winning more seats than expected south of Baghdad and almost as many seats as Maliki in Baghdad, Allawi has proved that he is more than "the candidate of the Sunnis" (which was always implausible given his own Shiite background). However, the two parties that are closest to each other on many key constitutional issues (and maybe the most promising combination to get an oil law passed anytime soon), Iraqiyya and State of Law, remain at odds with each other mainly due to differences at the personal level between their leaders. In this kind of situation, probably the most logical step for Iraqiyya would be to explore the possibility of a deal with the Kurds that balances some solid concessions to Arbil with preservation of Iraqi nationalist ideals as far as the structure of government south of Kurdistan is concerned. Additional support could come either from Shiite Islamists who share the view of Iraqiyya on the importance of a centralised state in the rest of Iraq (for example the Sadrists), or, alternatively, all the small blocs in parliament joined together with Iraqiyya and the Kurds (166 seats). It is to be hoped that the ideologically contradictive scheme of a deal with ISCI (the pro-Iranian decentralist Shiite party with which Iraqiyya only shares certain ties at the personal level) will be avoided, since it would mean another oversized, ineffective government populated by parties with little in common. At any rate, ISCI now has diminishing clout within INA.
Also, some extra uncertainty has been added to the mix due to a ruling by the federal supreme court yesterday which explicitly makes it clear that the key definition of "the largest bloc in parliament" (which is supposed to form the next government) can also include post-election bloc formation. This in turn breathes new life into the scenario preferred by Iran of the two Shiite-led blocs, INA and SLA, joining together to a single big entity, on the pattern of what happened in 2004/2005. Talks about this has come to the fore again over the last weeks as Maliki gradually realised that his ambition of going it alone, separate from the other Shiites, was not going to be fulfilled quite in the way he had foreseen. It would, however, require considerable recalibration within Shiite circles, since the Sadrists are likely to overshadow ISCI in the INA contingent, and they are not known to be keen on a second Maliki premiership. Nonetheless, the mere fact that this option is now being talked about at all signifies the big irony of these elections: Ali Faysal al-Lami, the de-Baathification director, both lost and won them to some extent. He got just a few hundred personal votes for INA in Baghdad, and will not win a seat in parliament. But through his witch hunt he forced Maliki into a more sectarian corner, and thereby prevented him from winning much-needed support north of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the next procedural step is of a simpler character: The results will have to be formally certified in the Iraqi legal system. Only then will the clock for government formation start ticking in a formal sense. Upon certification of the results, the current president, Jalal Talabani, must call on the new national assembly to convene within fifteen days. At that point, the council will have to elect a speaker with two deputies. In theory, that election is separate from the government formation, although it seems likely that whoever is forming the next government will want allies to fill those posts: With the control of the parliamentary agenda that comes with them, they are going to be more important during the next four years than the office of the president, which now becomes a more ceremonial position. The new president, in turn, is to be elected within 30 days of the first parliamentary meeting. The constitution stipulates an aspiration of a two thirds majority for the election of the president but allows for a simple-majority run-off in case that requirement should prove elusive. This in turn means that it is the 163 mark that needs to be met in order to secure the election of the president and thereby get the government-formation process on track in earnest, with a deadline of another fifteen days for the president to formally charge the nominee of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government within another thirty days. In other words, if certification takes place around 1 April, a meeting of the new parliament must be held within 15 April, a new president must be elected within 15 May, a PM nominee must be identified by 1 June, and a new cabinet must be presented for approval by parliament before 1 July. The psychological deadline is likely to be the start of Ramadan around 10 August and the scheduled completion of withdrawal of US combat troops by 31 August.
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