The results Iraq's national elections are finally in, and current
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be in trouble. Buoyed by support from
Sunni Arabs and from secular Shia in Baghdad, former interim Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi's political party has eked out a surprise
in the elections. Allawi's party, Iraqiya, won 91 seats to
Maliki-run State of Law's 89, setting up a possible defeat for Maliki.
But it takes a plurality of parliament--163 of the 325 seats--to form a
ruling coalition. So the race is still open. With Maliki making accusations of fraud
(which American officials reject
), anything could happen.
for MidEast Politics "Wow," writes the New America Foundation's Steve Clemons. "Incumbents hardly
ever lose -- particularly in the Middle East." He warns, "There may be
trouble ahead. I don't think al Maliki will step back easily or will be
enthused about playing the minority role in a coalition government. But
these election results are surprising as it's rare to see incumbent
governments in the Middle East lose, or if they do lose -- to let that
loss be actualized."
- Will Maliki Accept Defeat? Spencer Ackerman says
he should. "Nouri al-Maliki will secure his place in history if he
becomes the first non-interim Iraqi leader to willingly relinquish power
after the results of an election," he writes. "Maliki can look at it
this way: he made the country safe enough for people to feel comfortable
very narrowly voting for one of his opponents. Perhaps Maliki will
prevail, but that will only delay this reckoning."
- If He Doesn't, Will U.S. Still Withdraw? Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch warned in The National that Maliki "may not surrender power without a fight – and many of his backers may
reject the prospect of being ruled by Allawi, who drew so heavily on
Sunni votes." This could delay or altogether halt the planned withdrawal of 90,000 American troops still in Iraq.
- Option 1:
The Sweeping Coalition The Economist explains,
"Both [Allawi and Maliki] face an uphill struggle to find a winning
coalition." That requires a broad compromise that will gain the 43-seat
Kurdish party and the support of some less-than-attractive options: The
highly pro-Iran ISCI party or the Sadrist party of violent religious
leader Moktada al-Sadr, who "commands a militia known as the Mahdi Army
that in the years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein battled
ferociously against American, British and Iraqi government forces."
2: The Unity Partnership What if Maliki and
Allawi joined? This Kumbaya scenario could require one of the two
men to step down. "Their views are much closer than their fierce and
rhetorically exaggerated campaign rivalry suggests. Together they would
have a comfortable majority—and a chance to reconcile Iraq’s two main
Muslim sects. The trouble is that neither man can abide the idea of
playing second fiddle. In the end, one of them—or both—may have to be
shoved off the stage by ambitious lieutenants capable of reaching across
- Maliki Abandoned By Own Party? Juan Cole analyzes the mood in
State of Law, Iraq's largest coalition of political parties, which is
led by Maliki. "It sounds as though the State of Law leadership is
entirely prepared to throw al-Maliki under the bus to get the votes
required to form a government." The coalition, which is losing seats in
the election, will need to ally with other parties, such as that of
Moktada al-Sadr, whose hatred of Maliki comes from violence in the worst
days of the war. "The State of Law may well have to sacrifice him to
get an alliance with the more religious Shiite parties."
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