BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – The coalition bloc that triumphed in last week”s Iraqi election dismissed allegations of fraud on Saturday and insisted the country”s next prime minister should come from within its Shi”ite Islamist ranks.
Responding to claims by Sunni Arabs and some secular parties of widespread vote-rigging during the Dec. 15 election, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) said its opponents were bad losers.
It said the most serious fraud allegations came from Sunni areas of the country and that there could be no rerun of the election, as a battery of Sunni and secular parties have urged.
"There will be no retreat and no rerun of the election," said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior member of one of the main parties in the UIA. "In the end we have to accept the results and the will of the people," he told a news conference.
Unofficial but near-complete results from last week”s poll suggest the UIA did better than expected in some key areas of the country, notably Baghdad where they took 59 percent of the vote to just 19 percent for their nearest Sunni rivals.
The capital was a key prize in the election, accounting for around a quarter of the electorate.
In response, at least two dozen Sunni parties said the results were fixed and the commission which organised the election was biased. They called for a fresh vote, backing up their demand with a big demonstration in Baghdad on Friday.
The commission says it is investigating around 1,500 complaints of fraud but has labelled only 37 of them as "red", or serious enough to affect any result. It has all but ruled out a new election, as has the United Nations.
"Those who are complaining have made clear by their remarks that they stand with the terrorists and abide by their demands," Maliki said, in reference to the largely Sunni Arab insurgency.
He said the UIA would insist on leading the new government but would not nominate a prime minister until the election results had been finalised, expected early in the new year.
Alliance sources say the coalition”s front runners are interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the Dawa party, and Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mehdi from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Adopting a more conciliatory tone, Maliki said a dialogue between parties had been opened with the aim of forming a broad-based ruling coalition.
While both Sunnis and Shi”ites have talked tough since the partial results came out, they have also been negotiating behind the scenes, and analysts say the main parties and coalitions are largely staking their claims for power rather than threatening to disrupt the process of forming a government.
But there are gunmen on both sides of Iraq”s sectarian divide who could cause trouble if they do not get their way.
The Shi”ite coalition commands two large militia, the SCIRI-linked Badr forces and the Mehdi Army, loyal to Shi”ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, while some Sunni politicians are believed to have links to militant groups fighting the U.S. occupation.
The head of the Badr Organisation, Hadi al-Ameri, took part in the news conference and issued a thinly veiled warning to militants from other sects and ethnic groups in Iraq: "We ask those who have rejected the results to avoid using threatening language and dragging the country into a state of chaos."