Iraq vote: PM Maliki emerges front-runner

Iraq vote: PM Maliki emerges front-runner

Maliki’s chief rival, secular Shia Iyad Allawi of the nationalist Iraqiya list, made a strong showing in five Sunni majority provinces while Maliki, a religious Shia, was popular in conservative Shia areas.  

The result in the capital, Baghdad, could be decisive. Sectarian violence and cleansing dramatically reduced the Sunni majority to a minority and transformed Shias into the majority. However, internally displaced and exiled Sunnis casting ballots outside the capital Could boost the number of votes for Allawi and narrow the gap between him and Maliki.

No single bloc is expected to secure a majority in the 325-seat parliament, making it likely that formation of a coalition could involve weeks of horse-trading.  

Turnout

Estimates put the turnout in the national parliamentary election at an average of 55-60 per cent, although in some areas it was 75 per cent. In Suleimaniya, it was 71.2 per cent. While sources told Deccan Herald that Goran, the ‘Change’ movement, was leading in Suleimaniya city, the alliance led by the traditional ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), swept the rural areas.

The PUK/KDP bloc may also have won eight out of 12 seats in Kirkuk, in the neighbouring province where many Kurds have settled since the 2003 US occupation. In Suleimaniya, the two Kurdish Muslim fundamentalist parties captured 15-20 per cent of the vote.

A Kurdish victory in Kirkuk would embolden the PUK/KDP alliance to press the new government in Baghdad to conduct a referendum in Kirkuk in which residents would decide whether no not the area should be annexed by the autonomous Kurdish region.

Kurdish demands for annexation have led to serious tension between the Kurdish region and Baghdad and violence between Kirkuk’s Kurds, on the one hand, and Arabs and Turkomen, on the other hand. US troops, deployed as peacekeepers on the border between Suleimaniya province and Kirkuk may have to stay after the 2011 withdrawal deadline in order to prevent conflict along this fault line.

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