05/20/2014, 00.00

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Iraq elections: outgoing Prime Minister al-Maliki closer to a third term

According to the Electoral Commission, the prime minister's party came first with 92 seats out of 328. However, he will likely be forced to form a coalition government. Its two main Shia opponents won together 57 seats. Vote is deemed "credible" despite some irregularities and vote rigging.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's party is on its way to get a majority in April's parliamentary elections, but with less support than expected, which will prevent him from forming a majority government.

Iraq's electoral commission said that the State of Law party of outgoing Prime Minister Maliki took 92 of the 328 seats in the Council of Representatives (lower house). Its two main Shia rivals, Ammar al-Hakim's Muwatin and the Ahrar movement loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, followed with a combined 57 seats.

Although the 63-year-old Maliki wants a third term, he faces strong resistance within his party and opposition from other parties, who want fresh new blood to renew the country's leadership, especially since he has failed so far to stop the violence that has left more than 3,500 people dead this year.

More than 9,000 candidates and 276 political entities contested the elections on 30 April, the first since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011.

On Monday, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that 62 per cent of the 22 million eligible voters had cast ballots.

The preliminary results showed State of Law in the lead in 10 of the 18 provinces, with a combined total of 92 seats, followed by Muwatin with 29 and Ahrar with 28. Two smaller parties of Sadr supporters won six seats.

The Mutahidoun bloc led by the Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi ended up with 23 seats, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Wataniya list won 21, and Sunni Arab Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's Arabiya list got 10 seats.

Although the election was deemed credible, state-run Iraqiya TV quoted the chairman of the IHEC as saying on Monday that it had annulled the results of 300 polling stations for reported violations, and that more than 1,000 electoral workers had been dismissed for ballot rigging.

There was also no voting in a third of the western province of Anbar, where Sunni tribesmen and militants linked to the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) control the city of Falluja and parts of Ramadi.

Negotiations to form the new government will take some time; after the last election in 2010, it took more than ten months to get a government.

Nevertheless, Maliki appears set to succeed himself. So far, he has proved himself capable enough to maintain US backing whilst developing strong ties with Iran, despite growing opposition among Sunnis in western Iraq and Kurds in the north.

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