Allawi wins 91 seats, needs 72 more to govern

NY Times:

The secular party of Ayad Allawi, a former interim prime minister once derided as an American puppet, won a wafer-thin victory in Iraq’s election, setting the stage for a protracted period of political uncertainty and possible violence that could threaten plans to withdraw American troops.

The outcome, announced Friday, was immediately challenged by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his supporters in the State of Law coalition, who hurled accusations of fraud and made vague references to the prime minister’s power as commander in chief.

Several parties have cried fraud as their fortunes waxed or waned in the slow vote count, an ominous reminder of an Iraqi political culture where winning is everything and compromise elusive. Western observers and an independent election commission said they saw no signs of widespread fraud. Mr. Allawi galvanized the votes of millions of Sunnis — who boycotted the last parliamentary elections in 2005 — to build his edge of 91 to 89 seats over his nearest rival, Mr. Maliki. That falls far short of the majority of 163 of the 325 seats in Parliament that he needs to form a government.

Iraqi political experts interviewed Friday doubted that Mr. Allawi would succeed in assembling a governing coalition. But even if he did, they said it would take at least until July, possibly even longer, a potentially destabilizing stretch in which a disgruntled Mr. Maliki would serve as caretaker prime minister.

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The Kurds have 43 seats and a Sadr based group has 70. Allawi needs to wrap up the Kurds and try to cut a deal with some of Maliki's delegates to put a coalition together. While it would be difficult, it is not impossible, and if he can get the Kurds he can keep Maliki from putting something together.

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