Global Policy Forum

Iraq Election Results Show Sunni Gains


Shiite Religious Parties Will Have to Form Alliances with Others

By Ellen Knickmeyer

Washington Post
January 20, 2006

Shiite religious parties fell short of winning outright control of parliament in Iraq's Dec. 15 national elections, compelling them to seek alliances with at least one other faction if they are to form a coalition government, official election results confirmed Friday.

The results released by the national election commission represented no significant surprises, other than confirming the strength of the showing by the minority Sunni Arabs in a vote that will seat Iraq's first full-term parliament since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Iraq's political, sectarian and ethnic factions have been waiting for formal release of the results as their cue to launch full-scale deal-making over the make-up of Iraq's next government.

Commission official Safwat Rasheed said the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties, captured 128 of the 275 seats, down from the 146 it won in January 2005 balloting. It needed 182 to rule without partners. A Sunni ticket, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh Mutlaq finished with 11 seats, Rasheed said. A few other Sunnis won seats on other tickets.

That will give the Sunni Arabs a bigger voice in the legislature than they had in the outgoing assembly, which included only 17 from the community forming the backbone of the insurgency. The December elections saw the first sweeping participation of Sunni voters, after threats of violence and boycott calls quelled Sunni turnout in the January elections.

A ticket headed by secular Shiite former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly. Allawi's bloc and the Sunni bloc share many common goals, including curbing the influence of the Shiite religious parties.

Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the January 2005 vote. A rival Kurdish religious ticket, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats, a gain of three from the outgoing parliament. Kurds and Sunni Arabs each are believed to make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population, although many Sunnis insist the share is much bigger.

Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician once favored by the United States to lead Iraq after Hussein, did not receive a seat. U.S. officials hope that a greater Sunni voice in the new parliament and government will help defuse the insurgency so American and other international troops can begin withdrawing.

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