IYAD ALLAWI WINS IRAQ ELECTION BY 2 SEATS

Allawi begins Iraq coalition talks
Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc won two more seats than al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance [AFP]

Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi prime minister, has begun talks to form a government after narrowly edging out incumbent Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq’s parliamentary elections.

Allawi’s secularist Iraqiya coalition won 91 seats in the 325-member Council of Representatives while al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance won 89 seats, the independent electoral commission said on Friday.

“There must be a strong government, capable of taking decisions which serve the Iraqi people, and bring peace and stability to Iraq,” Allawi told a press conference on Saturday.

“There have been some talks, but they were only talks. Now, the negotiations begin,” Allawi said.

Rafa al-Essawi, the current deputy prime minister and a member of the Iraqiya alliance, has been appointed to lead negotiations over coalition formation.

Al-Maliki refusal

Al-Maliki has refused to accept the results from the March 7 poll, insisting figures released on Friday night by the election commission remained “preliminary”.

Kurdistania, consisting of the autonomous Kurdish region’s two long-dominant blocs – the Kurdish Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, won 43 seats.

in depth
What next after Iraq’s election results?
Any complaints are laid before the Electoral Judicial Panel. This is a sub-committee of the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq. Any person or party has three days to appeal the results. The EJP has 10 days to investigate/adjudicate on these complaints
If there are no rulings in the complainants’ favour, and perhaps even if there are, the EJP sends the result to the Federal Supreme Court for ‘final certification’. This could take up to two weeks
The Council of Representatives (COR) – in its new 325-seat form – is convened and they have to elect a speaker and two deputies. Then the COR has to elect a new president by a two-thirds majority
The new president turns to the job of asking someone to try to form a government
If the president’s first pick cannot form a coalition of at least 163 seats, then the president turns to the second on the list and asks them. Now in theory, each ‘team’ has a 15 day limit on the amount of time they can spend trying to form that coalition

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Baghdad, said Allawi would be given “a first shot” to form a government which must hold at least a majority of 163 seats in the council.

According to the Iraqi constitution, if Allawi fails to do so within 30 days, the Iraqi president, who is elected by parliament, will designate the leader of another political list to form a coalition government.

Following the results announcement, Allawi pledged to “work with all sides” to form a coalition government.

However, in a press conference carried by Iraqi networks, al-Maliki said that the election results announced were “not final” and rejected the outcome.

“We still insist for a manual recount of votes … We cannot accept these results while we suspect them,” al-Maliki said.

“We want to build our country on a clear and transparent elections therefore the electoral commission must seriously respond to our demand.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, told Al Jazeera that the election had shown changes in the country’s political makeup: “The Sunnis voted for Allawi who is a Shia. They want a real Iraqi identity. They want to put an end to the Iranian influence which is spreading in the country.

“Also they want a secular government, they are fed up of this sectarianism. They want to have an Iraq they aspire to, to have stability, democracy, human rights, equality. And they don’t want those religious people at the top of their authority.”

The US congratulated Iraq for carrying out a successful election, and noted both international and domestic observers had reported no signs of widespread or serious fraud.

“This marks a significant milestone in the ongoing democratic development of Iraq,”  PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman, said.

The US embassy in Iraq also issued a statement supporting the election results and calling on all political factions to work together.

“We support the findings of international and independent Iraqi observers, who have affirmed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud,” the statement said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Iraq: Parliament Comes Into Focus

Stratfor » March 19, 2010 | 1602 GMT

Iraq’s Alsumaria News, citing the latest results from the country’s election commission, on March 19 showed what appears to be the first breakdown of seats in the Iraqi parliament after the March 7 elections.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law (SoL) coalition won 91 seats.  Former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya List is a close second, with 88 seats. A Shiite sectarian coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), is in third place with 68 seats, while the Kurdistani Alliance (KA) garnered 39 seats.

The biggest development was the rise of Allawi’s non-sectarian Iraqi nationalist coalition, which swept the polls in the Sunni provinces of Anbar, Ninawa and Salah ad Din, and has performed strongly in the ethnically mixed provinces of Diyala and Kirkuk and Baghdad.

While the Sunnis largely rejected sectarian forces, the Shiite vote remained in favor of sectarian forces – albeit divided between SoL and INA. Meanwhile, the main Kurdish bloc appears to have seen a substantial (though expected) drop in their parliamentary strength for two reasons: Sunni participation in the election and the rise of smaller Kurdish parties.

Intense negotiations among the various winning blocs are under way. The biggest question is whether Allawi’s bloc, which now represents the Sunnis, can be part of a grand coalition government. SoL, INA and KA have more than the required 163 seats to form a government. But that would put the Sunnis’ representatives in the opposition – an outcome that translates into instability in the country. Also, given his bloc’s performance, Allawi will make many demands in any power-sharing negotiations, especially since al-Maliki will want to retain the prime ministerial post since his party has the most seats and he has a post-electoral alliance understanding with the INA.

It is clear that the Shia need to include Allawi in the next government, but it is too early to say how it will happen. The United States would like to see Allawi and al-Maliki work together and contain Iranian influence in Iraq. But the Iranians are well aware of the Shiite divide between SoL and INA and got the two blocs to agree to a post-electoral alliance well before the vote. Tehran also knew that Iraq’s Sunnis would participate in the election in full force this time and has been operating accordingly. This is why the Iranians will try to get a SoL-INA-KA grand alliance to negotiate with Allawi’s Iraqiya List in order to contain the Sunnis.

Iraq: Stops Importing Fuel, First Time Since 2003

Iraq: Stops Importing Fuel, First Time Since 2003

March 20, 2010
For first time since the 2003 U.S. invasion, Iraq produced enough fuel to meet all its domestic needs, Azzaman.com reported March 20, citing Iraq’s Oil Ministry. The ministry’s statement said Iraq has reached a state of self-sufficiency in fuel products, adding that no fuel products were imported in the last three months.
Source : Stratfor – Global Intelligence

Iraq PM Maliki in tight race with rival Allawi

Iraq PM Maliki in tight race with rival Allawi

Poster of Iyad Allawi in Baghdad

Mr Allawi’s alliance has a narrow overall lead for the first time

The latest results from Iraq’s parliamentary poll show a tight race emerging between Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his main rival, Iyad Allawi.

With 80% of votes counted, the secular Shia-Sunni Iraqiya coalition led by Mr Allawi, a former prime minister, has a narrow overall lead for the first time.

But Mr Maliki’s State of Law alliance remains ahead in Baghdad and Basra.

The BBC’s Andrew North, in the capital, says the picture could well change by the time all the votes are counted.

Results from refugee voters outside Iraq, and special pre-election voting by Iraqi security forces have still to be announced, and they could dramatically affect the outcome of the parliamentary poll, our correspondent says.

With neither coalition able to win an overall majority, it is likely to mean talks on forming a new government will be long and difficult, he adds.

Minority Sunnis

Mr Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition is ahead in five of Iraq’s 18 provinces, and his nationwide lead is only 9,000 votes.

It is proving popular among minority Sunni Muslims resentful of the dominance of Shia religious parties since 2003.

Mr Maliki’s State of Law alliance is meanwhile ahead in seven provinces.

Source – BBC

Iraq expects to step up T-bill activity in 2010

IRAQ-ECONOMY/IMF (UPDATE 1)

* Secondary T-bill market to boost banks’ liquidity

* Also plans to create new forex markets

* Sees return to budget surplus in 2012

(Adds details)

By Michael Christie

BAGHDAD, March 10 (Reuters) – Iraq expects to step up its treasury bill activity in 2010 to help plug continuing budget deficits and foster a secondary treasury market, the Central Bank and Finance Ministry said in a submission to the IMF.

Iraq also wants to promote the development of foreign exchange markets outside the framework of regular dollar auctions currently conducted by the Central Bank, including an interbank market and dinar forward market, the submission said.

The country’s letter of intent to the International Monetary Fund can be accessed at http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2010/irq/020810.pdf.

In the submission for a $3.6 billion standby arrangement, dated Feb. 8, Iraq said the country only now emerging from years of sectarian slaughter that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion would not return to a budget surplus until 2012.

“As our financing needs in 2010 will still be substantial, we will step up our efforts to mobilize domestic financing through the Treasury bill market,” Iraq’s Central Bank head and finance minister wrote.

“To that end, we will conduct regular auctions, and refrain from cancellations, while allowing interest rates to be determined by the market. This will have additional benefits by determining a benchmark interest rate, while the development of a secondary market for treasury bills will allow banks to improve their liquidity management.” They said the country planned to introduce a sales tax, as a precursor to a Value Added Tax, “in the coming years”.

Iraq’s gross domestic product expanded by 4 percent in 2009 compared with almost 10 percent the year before, the submission reported. GDP growth would rise to almost 7 percent this year and 7.5-8.0 percent in 2011 and 2012, it said.

That improvement would be rooted in an increase in Iraqi oil output to 3.1 million barrels per day by 2012, from around 2.5 million bpd now, and exports of 2.5 million bpd, compared to just over 2 million bpd now.

Amongst other things, the submission said Iraq’s central bank planned to create a foreign exchange market outside the framework of regular dollar auctions now conducted by the bank. The bank uses the auctions to set the exchange rate, which has been held at 1,170 dinars per dollar for many months.

“To improve the functioning of foreign exchange auctions, we plan to develop organized exchange markets outside the central bank, including an interbank foreign exchange market,” it said.

“Our aim is to establish a forward market in Iraqi dinars in the near future.” (Reporting by Michael Christie; Editing by Missy Ryan)


(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. Click For Restrictions. http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

Iraq vote turnout figures released

Iraq vote turnout figures released
Campaign posters were removed from the streets
of Baghdad on Monday [AFP]

More than 60 per cent of Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections despite numerous attempts to disrupt the vote, officials have said.

The independent electoral commission, IHEC, said on Monday that roughly 11.7 million voters had cast their ballots on election day.

The 62.5 voter turnout did not include ballots cast by security forces and others in early voting or the 275,000 Iraqis voting abroad.

Hamdiyah al-Husseini, a senior official with IHEC, told reporters that turnout was particularly high in the country’s autonomous northern Kurdish region, with 80 percent of voters in Dohuk casting ballots.

The first results from Sunday’s vote were not expected for until Tuesday, he said, but the State of Law coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, claimed to be leading in nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

‘Al-Maliki lead’

“The State of Law Coalition list is leading among other lists in Baghdad and other southern provinces,” Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman and candidate for the Shia State of Law bloc, said.

“But the special voting and voters abroad, this has not been concluded yet and could alter the outcome,” he said.

SPECIAL REPORT

Most Iraqis abroad are believed to be minority Sunnis.

Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Baghdad, said the first preliminary result, to be announced in the coming days, would be based on just 30 per cent of the votes and may not be that representable.

“But the count will continue and while it does, the political manoeuvring will begin, all the parties seeking among each other who they could ally themselves with,” he said.

“The prime intention is to get a governing bloc within the parliament which has 50 per cent plus one seat, which would then enable that particular bloc to form a government and nominate a prime minister.”

Al-Maliki’s bloc was was ahead in Shia regions, while Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister who heads the Iraqiya list, was leading in Sunni areas, according to estimates the AFP news agency obtained from officials across the country.

‘Results unclear’

Thaer al-Naqeeb, an Iraqiya candidate and close aide to Allawi, said results were not clear so far but he said Iraqiya got between 70-90 per cent of votes in the northern and western provinces.

Meanwhile the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), which is one of the Shia parties grouped in the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), said the vote appeared evenly split between al-Maliki’s bloc and INA in early counting.

On Sunday, Iraq’s electoral commission urged Iraqi political parties to wait for the announcement of official results before declaring victory.

Final results, certified by the supreme court after hearing appeals, were expected within about a month of the election.

More than 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups were competing for the 325 seats in parliament.

US pullout

The general in charge of US troops in Iraq said on Monday that the election was a “milestone” on the way to a full pullout of US combat troops.

General Ray Odierno told reporters in Baghdad that most of the about 96,000 troops currently in Iraq will remain until May, when the military would begin scaling down to 50,000 non-combat troops by September.

The timetable calls for all troops to be out by the end of 2011.

“Unless there’s a catastrophic event, we don’t see that changing,” Odierno said.

Despite tight security arrangements, the vote was marred by violence as a series of explosions left at least 38 people dead and 89 others wounded in the capital.

The bloodiest toll was from an explosion that destroyed a residential building in the Shaab district of northern Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding at least eight more.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Iraqis vote amid deadly attacks

Iraqis vote amid deadly attacks
Around 19 million voters will cast their ballots at 47,000 polling stations across the country [AFP]

Iraqis have begun voting in their second full parliamentary elections since the 2003 US-led invasion against a backdrop of deadly attacks.

Around 19 million eligible voters will choose from over 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups looking to gain seats in the 325-member assembly.

But even as polls opened on Sunday, attacks across the country left at least 24 people dead and 50 more wounded.

The bloodiest toll was from an explosion that destroyed a residential building in the Shaab district of northern Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding eight more.

Initial reports indicated that dynamite was used to blow up the building, the interior ministry official said.

Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent Iraqi prime minister, whose State of Law coalition is claiming credit for improved security since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-07, dismissed Sunday’s attacks as “just noises to scare the Iraqi people from voting”.

“But I know the Iraqi people. They have conviction. When there is a challenge, they persevere, and you will see for yourselves the large number of people that come out to vote.”

Sporadic violence

Polling stations across the country were due to stay open until 5pm local time (1400 GMT) unless polling hours were extended.

However, the violence threatened to dampen voter enthusiasm. Twelve people were killed in a series of attacks in the Amil, Hurriya, Jihad and Khadraa districts of Baghdad, sources confirmed to Al Jazeera.

SPECIAL REPORT

In a separate incident in the Iraqi capital, four mortars landed in the fortified Green Zone, which houses the country’s parliament, several ministries and foreign embassies, an interior ministry official said.

A ban on car traffic, initially put in place on Friday for three days in central Baghdad, was lifted less than four hours into the election, a Baghdad security spokesman said.

Two mortar attacks took place in Salahuddin province and in Ramadi in Anbar province, officials said. There were no reports of damage.

At almost exactly the same time, five blasts struck near voting stations in Baquba in the northern Diyala province, officials said. There were no reports of injuries there.

Voting scenes

Elsewhere, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Sulaymaniyah, in Kurdistan region, said a member of the provincial council of Mosul, Qusay Abbas, was shot dead in the disputed area of Shabak.

Iraq poll analysis with Al Jazeera’s Jasim Azawi

“Mosul is a tense city and there is still no real political reconciliation between Arabs and Kurds,” she said.

“Today we are seeing a lot of Arabs turning up at the polling stations who want to be part of the political process, from which they have been away for many years, which has weakened them and given Kurds more clout in the Iraqi parliament.”

The election is being supervised by as many as 120 international monitors, with a number of foreign embassies providing staff to act as observers.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Chatriwala, who accompanied a team of UN monitors on a tour of several cities, saw about 200 people in a polling station on the outskirts of Ramadi at around 9:30am.

“The voting co-ordinator said there had been no problems,” he said. “Another co-ordinator, who was in charge of six polling stations, said 3,000 people had turned out to vote in the first couple of hours.”

Secular agendas

Voters are choosing between a broad range of parties and coalitions and no bloc is expected to win a majority.

After the last national election in 2005, it took the various political parties about five months to agree on a prime minister and for a cabinet to be approved.

Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Baghdad, said: “In the past, people have tended to vote along sectarian lines. But now, no governing coalition can come to power unless it has the widest possible breadth of support.

Voters queue at the entrance to a polling station in the Iraqi city of Basra [AFP]

“So political parties and coalitions have been fighting a campaign not on sectarian issues, but on the wider issues of Iraqi nationalism.”

Al-Maliki is taking on political opponents tapping into exasperation with years of conflict, poor public services and corruption, and hoping to gain support from a once-dominant Sunni minority.

Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister who heads the cross-sectarian, secularist Iraqiya list, is already complaining about irregularities in early voting, setting the scene for possible challenges to the election’s integrity.

Hasan Salman, a representative of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) – the successor of the United Iraqi Alliance, which has dominated the government since the December 2005 elections – also claimed voting irregularities.

“The government is using its power to steer things to its interest,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We are scared the result will be fraudulent. There are 19 million Iraqis qualified to vote, but there are 25 million voting slips, and we still have not received an answer why extra 6 million slips were printed.”

The Iraqi electoral commission is to announce preliminary results on March 10-11, based on votes from about 30 per cent of the polling stations.

The supreme court would then certify the poll results, after hearing appeals, within about a month of the election.

Ambassador describes excitement around Iraq’s upcoming elections

by Carson Miller
Hatchet Reporter

Web Exclusive

Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaida’ie said Iraqi nationalism is stronger than ever as elections approach in an event hosted by the Elliott School of International Affairs and GW’s International Development Studies Program Wednesday night.

Sumaida’ie shared the narrative of Iraq during the last half of the 20th century from his perspective, telling of a nation of promise in the 1950s slipping into authoritarianism under Saddam Hussein.

Sumaida’ie described his youth in Iraq as pleasant, with people caring about tending their gardens and providing their children with education.

“It was a time when everybody was hopeful about the future,” he said.

After Hussein’s military coup, Sumaida’ie said that Iraq went downhill in every possible way.

“Before Saddam, the GDP [of Iraq] was equivalent to that of Spain, and the Iraqi dinar was equal to 3.3 American dollars.”

Upon the end of Hussein’s end, Sumaida’ie said that one American dollar was equal to more than 3,000 Iraqi dinars.

“I was horrified to see village after village after village abandoned and destroyed,” he said.

Sumaida’ie made it clear that he was not there to discuss whether or not the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003, but he did say that the Americans “came in without a really true understanding of how bad it really was.”

Though the issue is still controversial in the United States, the ambassador said that American military help is a relatively straightforward decision for the Iraqis. With American help, Sumaida’ie said that Iraq is “spiraling upwards, not downward.”

That is not to say that there are not problems, however. Sumaida’ie said terrorists, especially those trained by neighboring countries and brought into Iraq, are still a threat.

He said that while there are terrorists, they do not represent the views and actions of the vast majority of the Iraqi population. Internal corruption is another issue that Sumaida’ie said is still being fought.

“It will take years, but in this year, I believe there will be less corruption than the last,” he said.

Sumaida’ie was very optimistic when discussing the upcoming elections in Iraq.

“We are proud to have reached a point, where this Sunday, the Iraqi people will go, dip their fingers in ink, and cast their vote,” he said. “Terrorists will be here for some time, but they have failed to derail the election.”

Sumaida’ie also said the election cycle of a democratic government is a very exciting feeling.

“Iraq now, today, does not know who is going to rule them in six months. That’s great!”

One graduate student found Sumaida’ie to be a timely speaker.

“It was very interesting. It was great that we could have somebody come here and discuss these issues in such a pertinent time in their history and such a crucial time in their history,” said Ryan Evans, a second year graduate student in the Elliott School.

Another student, first year graduate student Kristin Cullison, said the talk gave perspective on understanding the Iraqi people.

“Just to have the opportunity to ask him specifics about the election and what his thoughts were was very revealing,” Cullison said. “I think I definitely came out of this with a better understanding of the Iraqi people.”

PM: Iraqi dinar re-evaluation has to do with economic conditions

28 February 2010
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Sunday that the process to re-evaluate the Iraqi dinar has to do with economic conditions that have to be strengthened.

“The Iraqi dinar has all the reasons to grow stronger thanks to an increase in revenues and development of the economy,” Maliki said in response to some questions through the National Information Center.

“The government would not rush matters but would rather work on finding all the guarantees to render this measure a success. The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) is currently entrusted with drawing up a study on the whole issue and would give its decision soon,” said the Iraqi premier.
The Iraqi dinar’s exchange rate is suffering from low value against foreign currencies as a result of decades of wars and economic embargo that brought the local currency’s exchange rate to the rock bottom from three dinars per dollar in the late 1970s and 1980s to 3,000 dinars per dollar after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, followed by a 13-year crippling sanctions regime.is currently entrusted with drawing up a study on the whole issue and would give its decision soon,” said the Iraqi premier.

The exchange rate fell even more after 2003 to reach 1170 dinars per dollar due to the CBI‘s policy of daily auction, in effect for more than five years now.

The policy was lambasted by several economists on the grounds that these auctions do not give the real value of the country’s local currency.

© Aswat Aliraq 2010