Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi emerged from the election with a plurality of seats, winning 91 delegates to the next national assembly, against Prime Minister Maliki’s 89.
It is, it seems, about to get ugly.
Allawi, a former Baathist who quit the party in the 1970s, led a coalition of parties representings secular Iraqis, nationalists, those who oppose Iran’s influence, former Baathists, and various regional parties in provinces such as Nineveh (Mosul). His win is surprising, even shocking. He won with overwhleming support from Sunnis in northern and western Iraq, but in Baghdad — which elected 70 delegates, nearly one-fourth of the total of 325 — Allawi seems to have won not only Sunni votes but hundreds of thousands of secular Shiites, too.
Maliki, who pretended to be a nationalist but whose roots are deep in the ultra-religious Islamic Dawa party, is complaining that the election was rigged, an almost laughable charge. If anyone rigged anything, it was Maliki, who after all controls the levers of power. Before the election Maliki joined with the ultra-right Iraqi National Alliance, a clique of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, in support of an effort by Ahmed Chalabi to purge hundreds of secular and nationalist candidates from the ranks of those running for office, many of whom were members of Allawi’s coalition. Indeed, any fraud that occurred — though it seems minimal — probably was directed against Allawi.
Maliki now says that he’ll refuse to accept the results, a very ominous sign. As the Los Angeles Times reports:
“The fluidity of the situation has raised concerns that political battles will spill into the streets to be settled by force — including assassinations.
“Before the election, Maliki assigned army generals loyal to him to the main divisions around Baghdad and sent others to the south, according to Iraqi politicians and a Defense Ministry memo obtained by The Times.
“Officers also were purged from the Interior Ministry prior to the election. According to an Iraqi close to the ministry and a Western official, 191 officers were recently removed on allegations that they had once belonged to the Baath Party. The decree is still waiting to be enforced, but it could lead to the sacking of more than 70 police generals and colonels, raising fears that Maliki and other Shiite parties are trying to stock the security ministries with their supporters.
“An intelligence operative who works with political parties in Baghdad predicted local politicians would be targeted for assassination in the weeks ahead. He acknowledged that he had already started surveying targets, in case his side was attacked.”