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Iraqi Shiites Fail to Get Majority, Need Coalition (Update2)

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Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq's Shiite Muslim-based religious parties won 128 out of 275 seats in the December vote for a permanent parliament, requiring them to form a coalition government, according to results released today.


The United Iraqi Alliance, which controlled the transitional assembly with 146 seats, fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to form a government, according to a tally given by Safwad Rasheed Sidqi, a spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, in a televised news conference from Baghdad.

The minority Sunni Muslims, who boycotted the January 2005 election of the transitional assembly, made the biggest gains after their leaders encouraged participation in the Dec. 15 vote to gain representation in the new government. The National Concord Front won 44 seats and another Sunni-based party, the National Dialogue Front, won 11, Sidqi said.

"The elections have now confirmed that Sunnis are not the majority in Iraq and that they will not call the shots,'' said Vali Nasr, professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The Bush administration has expressed hope that the participation of Sunnis in the new government will help to stem a Sunni-led insurgency, allowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin.

No Date Set

The Kurdish Alliance, which voted with the Shiite bloc in the current parliament, saw its presence reduced to 53 from 75. The rival Kurdish Islamic Party won five seats, a gain of three. Former premier Ayad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List party took 25 seats, down from 40, according to the commission. Small parties won a total of 14 seats, according to the commission.

No date has yet been set for lawmakers to take their seats in the new Council of Representatives, formerly the National Assembly. Council members will serve four-year terms.

Politicians have four days to appeal the outcome, which were largely in line with the Dec. 21 preliminary returns. Officials then have 10 days to study any complaints before they certify the results.

Allawi and some Sunni politicians have already made complaints saying there was voting fraud and intimidation by Shiites. Sunnis dominated ousted President Saddam Hussein's regime, which suppressed the Shiite majority and the ethnic Kurds.

`No Magic Formula'

"The fact that elections have gone forward now three times shows that the political process is taking root in Iraq and the insurgency is losing ground,'' Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and a former adviser to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said in a telephone interview. ``That said, the insurgency is still going to be with us for years. There's no magic formula to end it, and most insurgencies on average last 10 years.'


The test of the Bush administration's claim that increased Sunni participation in government will help reduce insurgent violence has yet to come, Nasr, author of several books on politics and Islam, said in a telephone interview.

"The key issue will be what kind of power the Sunnis get from these numbers when it comes to negotiations about the government,'' Nasr said. "What kind of cabinet posts will they get? How will resources be distributed? What kind of representation will they have in patronage and government?''

Weeks of Negotiations

Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, have said the next government will be one of "national unity,'' comprising all elements of Iraqi society. Political negotiations aimed at creating such a government may take weeks.

A team of international monitors said yesterday in a report that the vote was marked by fraud and electoral code violations, while making no judgment on whether the poll was free and fair.

Security measures were tightened in Baghdad and the three provinces west of the capital where most Sunnis live, Diyala, Salaheddin and al-Anbar, amid fears that the announcement of the election results would prompt attacks, Agence France-Presse said.

After the parliamentary seats have been allocated, the lawmakers' first task will be to select a president, by a two- thirds majority. The new president and two deputies have 15 days to choose a prime minister from parliament's largest bloc.

Amending the Constitution

The assembly may then turn to amending the constitution, approved by 78 percent of Iraqis over Sunni objections in an Oct. 15 referendum, by dealing with disputes over oil money, the role of Islam in Iraqi law, and the nature of federalism.

The electoral commission on Jan. 17 said it cancelled results from 227 of 32,000 polling stations used in the December election after investigating 58 "red'' complaints, in which violations were deemed capable of affecting the outcome.

Including more minor queries, there were a total of 1,985 complaints received by the commission.

The parliament has 275 seats. Of those, 230 are allocated to the provinces according to their
population. Within each province, seats will be divided among parties and groups according to their proportion of the vote in that area.

The remaining 45 "compensatory'' seats have been distributed among parties who gained votes across the country, while failing to get enough support to win a single district. Votes by Iraqi expatriates are also included in this tally.

Created by anita
Last modified 2006-01-20 09:35 PM

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