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Mar. 26 2010 - 4:52 pm | 392 views | 2 recommendations | 6 comments

Iraq: Allawi wins the election

Ayad Allawi, head of the secular Iraqiya bloc, has won the most seats in the Iraq elections. 91 seats to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s 89. Now, as they say, the fun starts: prepare for months of wrangling over what the next government will look like, and who the next prime minister will be.

Four big questions that come to mind: Does Maliki, who is calling for a recount, hand over power? Can Allawi  find the 72 seats needed to get him to the 163 seats required to form a government? How does Iran–which has close ties to the other large Shiite list–feel about Allawi? Ie, will Tehran give the okay to the Shiite list to join forces with Allawi against Maliki? Finally, how does this impact the security situation, or, how much violence will we see during the government formation process?

I’m not going to try to answer those at the moment. But you might recall that I interviewed Ayad Allawi’s daughter, Sara, two weeks. Here’s Sara on what her dad’s vision is for Iraq: 

Our vision, his vision, would be to have the next government based on national unity and a coalition that included all groups, so no group feels ostracized. Really, I’m not sure if he will become prime minister. But I think Iraq has no other choice but to have a government based on national unity and to move away from sectarianism. So far, only our party has shown this approach. We’ll have to take that direction. If we don’t, Iraq will spiral into disaster. The tensions will be exacerbated. They could engulf Iraq and spread over to the other regions. It’s the approach that has to be taken to save Iraq.


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  1. collapse expand

    Doesn’t the fact that Allawi needs 72 seats to became Prime Minister mean that the other factions have real power to negotiate? That in effect Allawi has to make some really potential interesting deals? The thing is what do those who he negotiates with want? (That they are not getting in a Maliki government.)

    I know more questions. Can’t help it. It isn’t clear to me that Allawi is any better for Iraq today then he was in the past. Nor is clear Maliki is either. So i have question after question. Inquiring minds want to know.

    All though there are seldom easy answers in the best of times. In the times of hope and promise (if not reality) it is even more complicated and answers are often elusive.

  2. collapse expand

    This is a surprise considering the effort made to keep Maliki’s opponents off the ballot. Several who won may still not be allowed to take their seats. The Iraqi courts have left the door open to this.

    I don’t know if Allawi is as wedded to Iran as Maliki is. I do know that Maliki is talking to his old enemies the Sadrists, who are also close to Iran, about forming a government. Together they could keep Allawi out.

    Why are we supporting the Iraqis anyway? They are not our friends. Iraqi-Iranian trade, financed by our tax dollars, reached $4 billion in 2008 and another $4 billion in 2009. In 2010, the official projection is $8 billion. This is foreign currency the Iranians can use to develop their nuclear bomb and to finance terrorism. None of this is a surprise. I predicted the outcome in 2003. Anyone familiar with Iraq, Iran and the Mid-East could see this outcome.

    • collapse expand

      Great point. Indeed, this is a surprise. Maliki and Chalabi did their best to kneecap Allawi’s list. That move seemed to have backfired somewhat, perhaps giving Allawi a boost in popularity.

      I don’t get the sense that Allawi is in bed with Iran, relative to the other parties, certainly. On his tour of the region pre-election, he didn’t visit Iran, though his people say he was invited. (He visited Saudi, Syria, Egypt etc.)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Hastings,

    Technically, Mr. Allawi did not win the election, his block just got the most seats. He has the first right to try to form a coalition government. However that does not mean that will be able to and Mr. Maliki could pull that off. Mr. Alllawi heads the Iraqiya block which is more or less held together by their concern about growing Iranian influence. This makes it a natural ally with the Kurdish, Christian, and Assyrian parties plus perhaps Tawafuq which do not quite get the needed number of seats to form a government. However, even if they do, and they only have 30 days to do so, while they may agree on what they dislike (Iran and its sectarian Shia supporters), it is anything but clear what they would like to do. What would be the program of this patchwork government, especially given how the sectarian Shia forces have infiltrated the new military and security forces.

  4. collapse expand

    This is good news because of those running Allawi has little connection to Iran and supports a secular government and I believe the only one who has room for Sunnis. The task ahead is how to form a coalition, the kurds seem easy but he has to reach out the that crazed cleric (forgot his name) but he is in Iran and try to freeze Maliki out. Don’t know if that is possible but Maliki is doing nothing for us and as for Chalabi that fucking snake needs to be in jail.

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    About Me

    I'm the author of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story" and a regular contributor to GQ. Previously, I was the Baghdad correspondent for Newsweek magazine. My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, the L.A. Times, and other publications of repute. This blog will focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other newsy foreign-ish things.

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