Iraq PM Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc wins most seats but still short of majority
Blocs commanded by Shia fundamentalist rivals came a distant second and third
The coalition headed by Iraq’s Shia fundamentalist prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, won by far the largest number of seats in the country’s parliamentary election. Photograph: AP
The coalition headed by Iraq’s Shia fundamentalist prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, won by far the largest number of seats in the country’s parliamentary election but failed to secure a majority, the election commission said yesterday.
Preliminary results gave Mr Maliki’s bloc 92 seats in the 328-seat parliament, taking the lead in the capital, Baghdad, and 10 of 18 provinces. He needs the support of 165 deputies to secure a third term.
Blocs commanded by Mr Maliki’s Shia fundamentalist rivals came second and third, but a long way behind the prime minister’s alliance.
Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim’s al-Muwatin faction won 29 seats and radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s al-Ahrar list won 28 seats. Two small pro-Sadr groups won an additional six seats and are likely to align with his bloc. The Kurds took 62 seats.
Sunni parliamentary speaker Usama al-Nujaifi’s bloc won 23 seats, former prime minister Ayad Allawi’s secular al-Wataniya (National) list got 21, and Sunni deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s al-Arabiya (Arab) list won 10.
For the Sunnis and secularists this election amounted to a major defeat. In the 2010 election, Mr Allawi’s secular Iraqiya list won 91 seats, making it the largest bloc in parliament, but by splitting into rival factions, Sunnis and secularists lost votes and the confidence of supporters.
Although Mr Allawi should have been allowed to form a cabinet in 2010, Mr Maliki, whose list came in second with 89 seats, obstructed his bid, strung out negotiations for nine months, and eventually reached the top post with Iran’s backing.
Opposition to Maliki
It is not clear whether Tehran will be as forthcoming this time, because Mr Maliki faces stiff opposition from the two Shia clerics as well as the Sunnis, secularists and Kurds, who have threatened to boycott Baghdad if he returns to office. He is regarded by these elements as a major problem rather than the man to resolve Iraq’s postwar issues.
Mr Maliki has consolidated his hold on power by co-opting the military and security services. But he has failed to tackle corruption or deliver security, electricity, water and jobs.
He has also marginalised the Sunni community, prompting a revolt among Sunnis in the western provinces and attacks by al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and other jihadis. They killed more than 8,800 Iraqis in 2013 and 3,500 so far this year.
The parliamentary poll was the third since the 2003 US occupation that toppled Saddam Hussein’s secular regime and established a sectarian power-sharing system that has enabled fundamentalist Shia parties to dominate.
More than 9,000 candidates stood for the national assembly and 62 per cent of the 22 million eligible voters reportedly cast ballots.