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Iraq Sunni-Backed Vote Winner Seeks Caretaker Government - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A Sunni-backed bloc that came out ahead in Iraq’s election but whose slim lead is threatened by efforts to disqualify candidates called on Tuesday for the creation of an internationally monitored caretaker government.

The Iraqiya list of ex-premier Iyad Allawi said parliament should be reconvened to supervise the Shi’ite-led authorities until the results of the March 7 election are ratified, and to prevent the “theft” of the election and a spike in violence.

“We will not stay silent in the face of what is happening in the Iraqi political arena with attempts to marginalize and exclude the Iraqiya list,” Allawi told al-Sharqiya television station from outside Iraq. He was in Egypt on Tuesday.

Iraqis had hoped last month’s parliamentary election would lay the ground for sustained peace and economic prosperity seven years after the U.S.-led invasion unleashed sectarian bloodshed and a fierce Sunni Islamist-led insurgency. Overall violence has fallen sharply since its peak in 2006/07.

But the ballot produced no outright winner, spawning a protracted period of political uncertainty as Shi’ite-led, Sunni-backed and Kurdish factions jostle for advantage in high-stakes coalition negotiations.

Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition won two seats fewer than Allawi’s Iraqiya in the next 325-seat parliament, and it successfully sought a recount of votes in Baghdad that could overturn Iraqiya’s lead.

In addition, a Shi’ite-led commission whose purpose is to prevent sympathizers of fallen dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party from returning to power is challenging votes cast for candidates with alleged Baathists links, most from Iraqiya.

A review panel on Monday discarded the votes of 52 candidates.

That was the first of at least two expected rulings that could potentially cost Iraqiya some seats and enrage minority Sunnis who backed it and regard its success as a vindication of their claim to have a greater say in the post-Saddam government.

WARFARE RESURGENCE?

Sunni outrage at their loss of power after the fall of Sunni dictator Saddam helped fuel the violence and could trigger a resurgence in sectarian bloodshed. A serious collapse in security could threaten U.S. plans to end combat operations in August ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Iraqiya said in a statement it had examined its options for defending its electoral lead and concluded that the U.N. Security Council, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League should establish a caretaker Iraqi government and hold new elections.

It said it would also ask Iraq’s presidency council to reconvene parliament to monitor the executive branch and prevent any violations in the constitutional order.

Allawi’s election partner, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, summoned a meeting of the presidency council, of which he is a member.

Maliki’s incumbent government is serving in a caretaker role that limits its powers quite substantially. It can pursue normal government business, such as paying public sector salaries, but cannot pass new laws or sign new contracts.

It took Iraq five months after the last national elections in 2005 to form a government. That lengthy political vacuum allowed sectarian violence to take hold.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill this week said current conditions were far removed from those of 2005.

However, he said he was concerned about the length of time it was taking to certify the election result and urged Iraqi politicians to “get this show on the road.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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