Iraq Vote's Real Winner: Chaos

| Fri Mar. 26, 2010 5:53 PM EDT

After a tense few weeks of ballot-counting and political posturing, the results of Iraq's parliamentary elections were released Friday, and the country's political future looks as murky as ever, with no party coming close to a majority of the body's 325 seats. And with the status of US troops hanging in the balance, it looks as if an Iran-friendly firebrand cleric—and antagonizer of America—will play the role of kingmaker.

A few minor players got boosted to the big leagues in the Iraqi vote, held March 7. The biggest winner was the secular Shiite party of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose faction gained 91 seats. That was just two more than the number retained by current Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki and his Shiite Dawa party, which means Maliki's likely to lose his job. (As our own Kevin Drum pointed out yesterday, his coalition had already been preparing to throw him under the bus.) He's not giving up without a fight, though, announcing his intentions to pull a Norm Coleman. "No way we will accept the results," he told the New York Times. "These are preliminary results. We will challenge the results through the law and courts."

Besides the electorate's apparent rebuke to Maliki, a number of interesting story lines arose out of the election—whose turnout of about 60 percent is the highest ever recorded in post-Saddam balloting:

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