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 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.
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|