The Former interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyah formation has secured the maximum number of seats in Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections, narrowly edging out the State of Law grouping led by incumbent Premier Nouri al-Maliki.
Out of the 325 seats up for grabs, National Iraqi List (“Iraqiyah”) of Mr. Allawi secured 91. Mr. Maliki's State of Law grouping got 89, while the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), another Shia coalition which includes the followers of clerics Ammar al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr, won 70 seats. The Kurdistan Alliance won 43 seats. Other smaller parties could manage 33 seats, which could become significant in the numbers game, as the centre of gravity of Iraqi politics has now shifted to the government formation stage. Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission announced the final results on Friday. Citing irregularities, Mr. Maliki has asked for manual recount of the ballots.
In case Friday's results are confirmed, Mr. Allawi, in accordance with Iraqi Constitution, would be the first to be invited by the President to prove a majority in Parliament. Analysts, however, point out that despite securing the maximum number of seats, Mr. Allawi is unlikely to cobble together a 163 member cross- party alliance, which can then form the next government by virtue of a simple majority.
On the contrary, the two Shia formations — Mr. Maliki's State of Law and INA — which many observers say are natural allies, have a better chance of forming a stable government. The two together can muster 159 seats, only four short of the magic 163 mark.
In the past two elections, the Kurds who have secured 43 seats in the current polls have sided with Shia formations.
However, the two Shia groupings face one major problem. They do not, so far, have a consensus on a new Prime Minister. Within the INA, the Moqtada-al-Sadr faction opposes the continuation of the Mr. Maliki as the Prime Minister for a second term. The attack ordered by the Maliki administration in 2008 summer on Sadr City against the Mehdi Army of Mr. Sadr, generated considerable bitterness between the two Shia groups.
The formation of a government led by Mr. Allawi, who has been supported by Sunni Arabs and secular Shias, can emerge as a realistic possibility, only in case the Shia parties fall out with each other and the Kurdish Alliance, supported by most, if not all the smaller parties, who control 33 seats, cobble together a post-poll alliance.
As the lengthy process of the formation of new administration begins, the possibility a national unity government cannot be ruled out. The INA, which is closest to the Iranians, and is likely to emerge as the king-maker, has already advocated this proposal. The INA has been pressing, with a sense of urgency, the early withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq.