Iraq

Iraq Election Update

| Sat May 15, 2010 2:37 PM EDT

Two months after their parliamentary elections, the Iraqis have finally finished their recount and our pal Nouri al-Maliki didn't get the results he wanted:

In an embarrassing rejection of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's efforts to overturn his rival's lead in Iraq's inconclusive parliamentary election, a laborious manual recount of votes in Baghdad has turned up no evidence of electoral fraud and will not change the final outcome, officials said Friday....Had the allegations been upheld, the recount could have eroded the two-seat lead of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's faction. Allawi, a secular Shiite supported by Sunni Arabs, is claiming the right to form the next government as the head of the largest, if not majority, bloc in parliament.

....The delay in issuing final results has in turn deferred serious negotiations on the formation of a new coalition government....[Maliki's] coalition is locked in talks over who should be the next prime minister with the third largest winner, a Shiite bloc with 70 seats that is staunchly opposed to Maliki's candidacy and would like to see one of its own members get the job.

But wait! It turns out the Sadrist bloc has decided that maybe Maliki is acceptable after all:

A spokesman for radical, anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told AFP the movement would drop a veto against Maliki seeking a new term as premier as long as he met its condition that around 2,000 Sadrist prisoners be freed....Saturday's conciliatory statement, which followed discussions between the two sides in the past 48 hours, would eliminate Maliki's biggest hurdle.

Meanwhile, the "war minister" for al Qaeda in Iraq is warning of "dark days colored in blood," and violence has increased as the political stalemate continues:

"Sunnis will be very frustrated if (Allawi's) list is sidelined in the new government," said Omar al-Bayati, from Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah. "Many Sunnis think the formula of the current government should be changed; otherwise, the country is heading to the worst."

...."It is clear that al-Qaida is trying to ignite the sectarian war in this country and with the latest attacks, I think that the civil war is a possibility," said Alaa Mohammed, of the city of Hillah, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad, scene of some of the worst bombings Monday.

Stay tuned.

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