Iraq’s parliamentary elections happened nearly 7 weeks ago, but the leading political lists are no closer to forming a new government. In fact, that process is only going to take longer due to two new developments. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki successfully pushed through a re-count in Baghdad province, the largest in the country, and the Iraqi National Alliance led Accountability and Justice Commission wants to ban over 60 candidates, eleven of which won seats in the legislature.
First, on April 19, 2010 a three-member election court ruled that Maliki’s State of Law’s complaints about irregularities in Baghdad province had merit. The court ordered a manual recount of the 2.5 million votes there. Even before Iraq’s election results were released, State of Law began making charges of fraud and cheating when it looked like they would come in second to Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. Even though State of Law won the most seats in the province, 26 compared to 25 for Allawi’s list, Maliki is hoping that the re-count will give them two or three extra seats, which would push them past the National Movement and make State of Law the largest coalition. Maliki believes this will give him the upper hand in negotiations with other parties because it will give added weight to his claim that he has the right to form a new government rather than Allawi.
The problem with the re-count is that it could lead to several additional difficulties. First, Allawi will not sit by and watch his lead be taken away from him. He has already stated that he may reject the court decision to re-tally the votes, demand re-counts in other parts of the country, or call for a complete re-vote. The National Movement is also talking about going to the United Nations, European Union, and Arab League if the results are changed. The Kurdish Alliance has also formally complained about irregularities in Ninewa and Tamim, and said that they could request re-counts there if Maliki is successful in Baghdad. That could lead to challenge after challenge, and weeks worth of going through the ballots.
Second, the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the deBaathification Commission, jumped back into the political fray on April 26 when it announced it wanted to ban up to 61 candidates, eleven of which won seats. 52 of the candidates were actually banned before the balloting, but the Election Commission let them run claiming that the Accountability Commission had problems with their paperwork. It’s also believed that they were allowed to run so that the voting could finally take place after being delayed over and over. Two of them won seats, one of which was Ibrahim al-Mutlaq of Allawi’s list who replaced his brother Saleh al-Mutlaq who was banned before the election. The director of the Accountability Commission, Ali al-Lami said that nine more winning candidates, who came from the National Movement and State of Law, will have their fates decided in coming days. The Commission also wants to throw out the votes of any victorious candidate who is banned, which could change the election outcome as well. If the winning list still gets the most votes after the winner’s ballots are invalidated, than they will be able to name the replacement. However, if the list doesn’t come out victorious then the next coalition will get the seat.
Ultimately, up to a dozen or so seats could change hands after the re-count in Baghdad and the candidate banning. That could take the lead away from Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and infuriate their supporters who believe that their list won, only to see it taken away by what seems like political maneuvers behind the scenes. At the same time, even if Allawi does lose some seats, the overall dynamic between the large lists and their efforts to form a new government will not change. No party won a majority, which allows them to form the government. Each one of them needs to find partners to put together a ruling coalition. All of them have generally agreed to another national unity government that will include Allawi’s National Movement, Maliki’s Sate of Law, the Sadrist-Supreme Council led National Alliance, and the Kurdish Alliance. The problem is that both Allawi and Maliki have enough detractors to stop them from becoming prime minister, but neither will accept that. That’s what was originally dragging out the negotiations, and now they are going to be delayed even more as the re-count and deBaathification process plays out. When that’s done, everyone will be back to square one arguing over who will be Iraq’s new leader once again, meaning more weeks and months of talks. At this rate, the country will be lucky to have a new regime by the fall of this year.
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