March 7th Iraq held parliamentary elections. Ayad Allawi's slate emerged the winner with 91 seats, Nouri al-Maliki's slate closely trailed with 89 seats. Nouri's demanded a recount in Baghdad (which is currently ongoing). Yesterday a press conference in Baghdad was held to announce that State of Law (Nouri's party) and the Iraqi National Alliance were forming a coalition. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports:
The agreement was widely seen as tenuous, however, because the factions have not settled on candidates for the premiership or other top jobs -- sticking points that prevented the groups from running together in the March 7 parliamentary elections.
"We formed an alliance to form the biggest bloc in the next parliament," Ali al-Allaq, a leader in Maliki's State of Law coalition, said in an interview. "We agreed to postpone talking about the position of the prime minister until the next phase."
Caroline Alexander and Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) add, "State of Law insists that al-Maliki should stay on for another four years, though the INA is against this. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, an INA member who was present during the announcement, has been identified as a compromise candidate, as has Jaafar al-Sadr, a cousin of the cleric al- Sadr." Arthur MacMillan (AFP) adds, "There was no immediate reaction from the United States, which in the past week urged Baghdad's politicians to set aside their differences and form a coalition that allows them to get back to the business of running the country." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that "a small group of clerics led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani" will be the ones deciding any disputes. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) observes, "This would mean the return to a Shia Islamist-dominated government similar to that which took office after the 2005 elections, and would be likely to trigger an angry reaction from Sunni Arabs who overwhelmingly threw their support behind Mr Allawi."
And Allawi's Iraqiya? Alsumaria TV reports the party's spokesperson "Mayssoun Al Damlouji argued that the two coalitions alliance bears within a sectarian connotation." And in potentially related news, Aseel Kami, Michael Christie and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) break the news that Abdul-Jalil al-Fehdawi has been shot dead in Baghdad. He had been part of the Council of Iraqi Scholars and was a Sunni Iman. In the attack, three other people were also killed.
The coalition may or may not hold. What is known is that nothing is ever as simple in Iraq as the press would like. Proven today by Turkey's continued conflicts with northern Iraq. UPI reports that PKK attacks continue to be launched on Turkey from northern Iraq and that this "is renewing concerns about the sincerity of Kurdish leaders in Iraq". Melik Duvakli (Today's Zaman) reports, "The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has resumed its violent attacks against security forces every time Turkey has started to consolidate its democracy or normalize relations with the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq."
In other violence, Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person and 1 police officer was shot dead in MOsul while two other people were injured.
In the US, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this week. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page. We'll note Senator Barbara Mikulski.
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