Iraq’s electoral commission insisted it will announce full election results as scheduled on Friday, despite calls for a delay amid fears of violence over the tight race.
Earlier results, based on 95 percent of ballots counted, showed Prime Minister Nouri al—Maliki’s mainly Shiite bloc facing a virtual tie with the alliance led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who has garnered heavy Sunni support.
The tightness of the race sets the stage for protracted political wrangling over forming a new government that could spark new fighting and complicate American efforts to speed up troop withdrawals in the coming months.
It also has prompted calls for a manual recount of the tallies from the March 7 parliamentary vote amid claims of vote rigging and fraud.
Also, Interior Minister Jawad al—Bolani, himself a candidate, called on Thursday for a delay in the release of the results to prevent an outbreak of violence among supporters who feel they were disenfranchised.
Commission spokesman Mohammed al—Amjad, however, said on Friday the results and seat allocations in the 325—member parliament will be released at 7 p.m. in Baghdad. The announcement is expected to take two hours as tallies from each of Iraq’s 18 provinces will be read out.
Whoever wins the most seats will get the first stab at choosing the prime minister and forming the new government, which will run the country as U.S. troops leave by the end of 2011. They also will be able to reward allies with control of government ministries and the jobs that go with them.
But no bloc is expected to gain the majority required to act alone, so months of negotiations are expected as former rivals jockey for power. The Kurds and followers of anti—U.S. cleric Muqtada al—Sadr are likely to play key roles as kingmakers.
Mr. Al—Maliki’s State of Law coalition narrowly trails Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc in overall results released so far. But the prime minister’s bloc is ahead in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, compared to Mr. Allawi’s five. The allocation of parliament’s seats is based on votes counted per province.
The results won’t be final until they are ratified by the Supreme Court.
The Iraqi capital was mostly calm on Friday, although more than 300 al—Maliki supporters held a rally outside the Baghdad provincial council in the city centre, demanding a manual recount of the ballots over allegations of fraud and vote rigging.
The electoral commission has said there were no grounds for a recount.