The prospect of an indecisive election seems to be growing rapidly now, nearly two months after Iraqis went to the polls to cast their votes. Iraqiya, the putative winner of the March 7 vote, is warning that they may call for the establishment of a caretaker government and a new election.
Iraqiya, a secularist alliance headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, defeated current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc 91-89 in the initial counting of the votes, but has watched their lead evaporate and turn into what could be an enormous deficit with post election political maneuvering.
Maliki’s party got a ruling from the Iraqi High Court saying that the number of MPs who are seated in the first session of parliament, not the number actually elected, which decide who gets to form the government. Since then Iraqiya’s winning members have faced harassment, arbitrary detentions, and efforts by the Justice and Accountability Commission (JAC), which disqualified hundreds of Iraqiya candidates before the vote, to disqualify many of the winning MPs after the fact.
Iraqiya has already lost two MPs to an Iraqi court ruling, and scores of non-winning candidates have also been lost, setting up possible gains for State of Law, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) in those districts.
Beyond that, JAC is looking to oust another nine MPs, mostly Iraqiya, at least one of their MPs is being indefinitely detained by the Maliki government, and the Maliki government has also promised to dramatically change the results of the Baghdad vote with a manual recount. When all is said and done Iraqiya would likely be a distant second if not a third place finisher in the parliament, despite having won the actual election.
Allawi condemned the “malicious disqualifications” and detentions today, and said that his speech would be the last effort to convince the election officials to act fairly, saying he would turn to the people afterwards.
The prospect of another new election is a scary one for many, as the security situation is rapidly getting out of hand. Perhaps the only thing worse, however, would be to not hold a new election and allow Maliki to simply steal the election after the fact.
After seven years of American occupation Iraq’s Sunni minority has had to constantly lower expectations about their say in the government, but many saw a ray of hope in Allawi’s victory, as the Shi’ite’s bloc was composed largely of Sunni MPs and has eschewed the sectarian rancor of the past. To have come so close to victory and then have it pulled away unceremoniously will likely be the final straw for many Sunnis, and will push them away from the political process and back into the insurgency.