Iraqi PM steps up campaign to overturn election result


IRAQI PRIME minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose State of Law bloc won 89 seats in the March 7th parliamentary election, is making every effort to overturn the result.

Yesterday the panel disqualifying ex-Baathists said six winners would lose their seats. It is assumed that some will be from the Iraqiya bloc of Iyad Allawi which came first with 91 seats in the 325 member assembly, destroying his lead over Mr Maliki.

He has, reportedly, agreed to form a government with the Shia fundamentalist Iraqi National Alliance (INA) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which would have a combined total of at least 167 seats, a narrow majority.

Anticipating defeat, Mr Maliki extracted from the supreme court a ruling allowing blocs to forge broad coalitions with the aim of collecting the most seats and forming the government.

If Mr Maliki succeeds with his schemes he could deny Mr Allawi his constitutional right to have the first crack at cabinet making. He had apparently arranged to form an alliance with Kurdish Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani and other smaller blocs.

Mr Maliki’s proposed deal seems to have been concluded at meetings in Tehran between Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, head of the PUK, and Shia vice-president Adel Abdel Mahdi of the INA who held discussions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At the same time, leading personalities belonging to Mr Maliki’s bloc travelled to the Iranian holy city of Qom to negotiate with radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who had expressed his opposition to a second term for Mr Maliki.

Mr Sadr, whose party won 40 of 70 seats garnered by the INA, could be the kingmaker in 2010 as he was in 2005 when he backed Mr Maliki, a compromise candidate, for the top job.

Analysts suggest that Tehran’s involvement in the formation of the next Iraqi government could alienate Sunnis and secularists, who have been sidelined by the dominant Shia fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists allied to Iran. “We expect that there will be calls for a boycott of parliament and for civil disobedience,” said Aiham al-Sarrarae, an Iraqiya stalwart. He said violence could ensue.

Meanwhile, in the Shia shrine city of Kerbala car bombs killed five people and wounded scores more. The first exploded in front of a restaurant popular with pilgrims and the second, 15 minutes later, at a nearby security post.