Maliki launches campaign to challenge Iraqi election results


IRAQ’S PRIME minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose bloc came in second in parliamentary elections on March 7th, has launched a campaign on several fronts to overturn the outcome of the poll.

Mr Maliki is pressing the election commission to conduct recounts in Baghdad, where his bloc took 26 seats and the winning bloc of Iyad Allawi won 24, and Kirkuk where Mr Allawi’s Iraqiya tied at six with the Kurdish alliance.

Mr Maliki has convinced the supreme court to issue a ruling which confers the premiership on the leader of the largest alliance, formed by blocs after the election but before parliament convenes. This gives both Mr Maliki and Mr Allawi the opportunity to expand their blocs by recruiting winning candidates from other factions.

But Mr Maliki has the advantages of being an incumbent and a sectarian Shia. He is trying to secure parties and winners belonging to the Shia fundamentalist Iraqi National Alliance (INA). Iran, which wants to maintain the dominance of its Shia allies, is likely to put pressure on them to join Mr Maliki.

Mr Allawi is at a disadvantage. His party challenges the ethno-sectarian system put in place by the US in 2003.

Mr Maliki’s allies on the de-Baathification panel have de- clared that they could disqualify 55 candidates on a list drawn up on the eve of the election.

If only three are from Iraqiya, their removal would reduce its 91 seats in the 325-member assembly, giving the largest number to Mr Maliki’s State of Law, which won 89 seats.

When Iraqiya said it would replace those who are disqualified, panel head Ali al-Lami, said the bloc may not decide who will replace a banned candidate. In his view, the votes of those eliminated should be “nullified totally”.

Mr Maliki is also seeking to demonise Iraqiya as a successor to the ousted Baath party, hated by many Shias and Kurds, and claims its candidates are from the ranks of criminal insurgent groups.

Meanwhile, bombs killed five Iraqis at the town of Qaim, west of Baghdad near the Syrian border. The blasts went off near the home of a brother of a Sunni who stood on the Iraqiya slate. On Saturday, Iraqiya’s office in the Shia holy city of Kerbala was burned down and on Friday a Sunni leader in Baghdad was killed by a sniper during celebrations for Mr Allawi’s victory.