BAGHDAD (AP) – The Iraqi prime minister on Friday harshly criticized calls by his rival for international involvement in setting up a new government following the close-fought parliamentary elections, saying such a role would harm Iraq’s efforts to become a self-reliant country.
Nouri al-Maliki also hinted at some sort of international plot to stage a coup through ballots, in the latest escalation of the war of words in Iraq’s post-election impasse following the March 7 vote.
Al-Maliki’s Shiite coalition narrowly lost by two seats to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s cross-sectarian Iraqiya Party, but neither garnered enough to rule alone, setting off protracted wrangling over the formation of the next government.
In what others have said were attempts to hold on to power, al-Maliki’s bloc has since requested recounts in several provinces. Meanwhile, a commission responsible for vetting candidates for ties to old regime has recommended disqualifying several Iraqiya winners.
The moves prompted Allawi to warn of an effort to “steal” the election and has called for an international supervised caretaker government to oversee the process of determining the election results and forming a new government.
Even al-Maliki’s foreign minister has suggested that the U.N. could become more involved in the process. “Matters are getting worse day after day,” Hoshyar Zebari told the Al-Sharqiya channel Wednesday night. “The U.N. might at least bring together the winning lists to sit with them and discuss matters.” But al-Maliki argued on Friday that any further involvement of international organizations would only delay Iraq’s efforts to end a United Nations mandate and become fully sovereign.
“Look at the delegations that are roaming several countries and demanding an intervention in a national issue in which nobody should interfere,” he said in reference to Allawi, who had just completed trips to Jordan, Egypt and Turkey.
“I ask them and the Iraqi people about the meaning of these delegations going out and crying for help. What happened to them so that they scream to the world,” he said in a speech in the holy city of Karbala.
Al-Maliki warned that further foreign interference could turn Iraq into a “battlefield for regional and international powers.” He defended his calls for a recount as a way of assuaging voters’ anger that their ballots had disappeared or had not been properly counted, and suggested that efforts to stop the recount were part of an international plot to remove him from power.
“This gives us an impression that there is a regional and international project that wants to mount a coup through ballots, otherwise why this big fuss and weeping in the world over the recount issue?” he said.
Despite numerous calls for recounts by a number of parties, only al-Maliki’s request for a recount in Baghdad province was approved. With 68 seats up for grabs, Baghdad is the largest electoral district and a recount could reverse Allawi’s slim lead. The recount is expected to start Monday and could take weeks.
The anonymous three-judge panel’s approval of the recount and the disqualification of one of Allawi’s candidates’ has also spurred accusations that the judiciary is biased.
Iraq’s disaffected Sunni minority overwhelmingly backed Allawi’s list and it is feared that a reversal of his victory could prompt many to lose faith in the political process and possibly take up arms against the government once more.
Police in the western city of Fallujah, once a center of the Sunni-backed insurgency, said two men died Friday when a bomb they were planting by the roadside went off. A third bomber was captured by security forces after the blast while a fourth escaped.