Iraq’s incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has emerged as the biggest winner in the country’s first parliamentary elections since US troops withdrew in 2011, preliminary results showed Monday.
According Iraq’s electoral commission, Maliki won 92 out of 328 parliamentary seats, far more than his two main Shi’ite rivals, the movement of Muqtada Sadr and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, who won a combined 57 seats.
The results dealt a blow to Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish rivals seeking to prevent him serving a third term, though the premier still needs to approach other groups in order to secure a broader majority coalition inside parliament to form a government.
The parliamentary election was the third since the 2003 US-led invasion that removed dictator Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime and brought the long-oppressed Shiite majority to power. It came at a perilous moment for Iraq, with the country sinking back into a brutal cycle of bloodshed that claimed more than 8,800 lives last year alone.
The resurgence of sectarian violence, which nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007, is being fueled both by deep-seated divisions within Iraq and the three-year-old civil war in neighboring Syria.
More than 9,000 candidates from across Iraq vied for the parliamentary seats in the April 30 election.
Electoral officials reported that 62 percent of the 22 million eligible voters cast ballots – the same turnout as in the last parliamentary elections in 2010.
Government formation expected to take months
Iraq's political parties have for weeks been meeting and manoeuvring as they seek to build post-election alliances, but the formation of a new government is still expected to take several months.
As in previous elections, the main blocs are expected to agree on an encompassing package that ensures the prime minister, president and parliament speaker are all selected together.
Under a de facto agreement established in recent years, Iraq's prime minister is a Shiite Arab, the president is a Kurd and the speaker of parliament is a Sunni Arab.
Maliki's critics accuse him of consolidating power, particularly within the security forces, and blame him for a year-long deterioration in security, rampant corruption and what they say is an insufficient improvement in basic services.
Thousands killed in run-up to election
The election and its aftermath came amid a surge in violence that has killed more than 3,500 people this year, fuelling fears that Iraq could be slipping back into the type of all-out conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives in 2006 and 2007.
In particular, the 63-year-old faces strong and vocal opposition in the Sunni-dominated west and the Kurdish north, with rivals there insisting they will not agree to a third term.
Maliki blames external factors such as the war in neighbouring Syria for the surge in unrest, and says his so-called partners in government snipe at him in public and block his legislative efforts in parliament.
The run-up to the election, Iraq's first since US troops withdrew at the end of 2011, was plagued by attacks on candidates and campaign rallies, and allegations of malpractice that contributed to lower turnout in areas populated by disgruntled minority Sunnis.
But the election has nevertheless been largely hailed as a success by the international community, with the United States and United Nations praising voters for standing up to militancy.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-19