Iraq’s al-Maliki Defeated in Election, Early Results Show

BY jbreslow  March 26, 2010 at 3:23 PM EDT

A coalition led by Iraq’s former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has edged out Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party in parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results released Friday.

Allawi’s secular bloc won 91 seats in Iraq’s 325-seat parliament, while al-Maliki secured 89 seats, according to Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission. The surprise outcome does not guarantee Allawi the prime minister’s post, rather affords him the right to form a coalition government.

The March 7 election has been clouded by allegations of fraud, and even before the release of official results Friday, Maliki supporters gathered in central Baghdad to demand a recount. The head of Iraq’s electoral commission has resisted the demand, however, calling a recount “unnecessary.” Officials from the United States and the United Nations also have said there are no signs of widespread fraud.

“Some of these results are unacceptable and unreasonable,” al-Maliki said after the final tally was announced.

Since taking office in 2006, al-Maliki has helped quell the sectarian violence that marred Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. However, tensions over the election’s results now have many both inside and outside of Iraq fearful of a new wave of unrest. Earlier Friday, a twin bombing in the city of Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more.