Ayad Allawi Edges Out P.M. Nouri al-Maliki
The wait in Iraq is over. According to official results from Iraqi press, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has edged out the incumbent P.M. Nouri al-Maliki in the parliamentary elections.
And boy what a close election it was. Allawi’s coalition barely managed to defeat Maliki’s State of Law umbrella group (Allawi received 91 seats to Maliki’s 89). In many ways, this 2 seat difference bears similarities to the Bush-Gore saga that plagued the United States for months. Maliki is already complaining about voter fraud and intimidation, and his camp for the last 24 hours has been calling for a recount across the country.
This may be construed as both good and bad. On the one hand, Maliki’s unwillingness to accept the tally shows how difficult it will be for Allawi to forge a functioning coalition government in the next few months. Maliki may not cooperate, and the other Shia parties that were left in the dust may resort to violence on the street if their interests are not met. Yet on the other hand, the fact that Iraq’s election was so close for so long shows the maturation of Iraqi democracy. It sounds cliché, but millions of Iraqis braved the violence in order to stand in line and cast their ballots for a more hopeful future. And from the looks of it, Iraqis have a wide range of interests.
Perhaps the most important success that we can take from this election is the contest’s legitimacy. As far as I can tell, this is the first time that all main sectarian groupings (Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds) voted in mass, which is a far and welcome cry from the 2006 parliamentary election (when most Sunnis boycotted the vote entirely).
What about the victor? Well, Allawi’s triumph is a very significant development for the United States. Compared to the other candidates, Allwai is vehemently anti-Iranian. Tehran’s proxies in Iraq, including the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and parts of al-Maliki’s government, were trounced by a broad and cross-sectarian list of politicians. In fact, the sectarian and religious parties that used to dominate Iraqi politics are quickly being replaced by parties that take on a more nationalistic tone. And with nationalism at an all-time high, disengagement from Iraq is that much easier for the White House.
There is still a long way to go. Iraq’s political wrangling has only just begun. Allawi still has to bargain behind closed doors with the Kurds to form a semi-functional government, which could be months in the making. But if the final tally is any indication, Iraqis may be moving on from sectarian division.
P.S: Let’s not forget that 40 people died in twin bombings, just as the votes were being counted.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of the Economist**