Iraqi premier calls for poll recount as rivals gain ground
IRAQ'S prime minister yesterday called for an election recount as the tally of votes cast doubts over his ability to form a new government.
With more than 90pc of the 12 million votes counted, Nouri al-Maliki remained neck and neck with his main challenger, Ayad Allawi. Over the past five days, the lead has changed hands repeatedly, with Mr Allawi ahead by about 8,000 votes by yesterday afternoon.
Mr Maliki said: "Many political entities are now demanding a recount by hand. This is to protect democracy and to preserve the legitimacy of the electoral process.
"I ask the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to respond immediately to preserve political stability and to avoid a deterioration of security and a return of violence which was quelled after much effort and loss of blood."
However, the IHEC flatly rejected a recount and said it would announce the final result on Friday. Mr Maliki appears to fear that even were he to pull ahead, he would form a weak government at best and could even lose office.
Even if his State of Law bloc stays in power, some rivals are demanding he step down as a condition for joining forces.
"Mr Maliki calculated not that he would have an overall majority, but that he would only need a partnership with a minor coalition and that he could dictate the conditions," said Mustafa Alani, the research director at the Gulf Research Centre.
"Now he has discovered that the prime ministership is going to get away from him. Another bloc could form a coalition or even within his own group there could be a switch."
State of Law, a mostly Shia party, and Mr Allawi's Iraqiya National Movement, which campaigns on a secular, anti-sectarian ticket, are heading for about 90 seats each.
With 163 seats needed for a majority, either major bloc will have to ally with one or both groupings in third and fourth places -- the more radical, pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance and the bloc representing Kurdish parties.
Months of horse-trading are likely to ensue, with sectarian and militant groups seeking to fill the power vacuum. Even if that hurdle is surmounted, no resulting government is likely to be able to offer strong leadership on rebuilding Iraq's economy.
Iran is also likely to try to intervene to establish a friendly, Shia-led coalition.
"If anyone is going to influence the outcome of the election and seize influence in forming the next government, Iran is in quite a strong position," said Dr Alani. (© Daily Telegraph, London)