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Shiites Look to Forge Allies After Election in Iraq

Results showed the alliance as receiving a likely 140 seats on the assembly, followed by the Kurdish coalition with 70 seats and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s party with about 40 seats. Sunni Arabs, who once ruled the country under dictator Saddam Hussein, appeared to gain only five seats since many boycotted the election or didn’t vote for fear of violence.

Iraq’s new government will have a president and two vice presidents, all largely ceremonial roles, who must be approved by two-thirds of the assembly, according to the Associated Press. Once they are named, they will select a prime minister and agree on a cabinet of ministers who must be approved by a majority.

The assembly also will draft a permanent constitution and prepare for general elections at year’s end.

The following are the top three winners of the Iraqi elections:

United Iraqi Alliance (Shia List)

Backed by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the United Iraqi Alliance is made up of 16 parties led by two religious Shiite parties — the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Dawa, along with a mixture of independents, some secular Shiites, some Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

SCIRI is headed by Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who is leading talks on selecting a prime minister, other ministers and working to address issues such as how to keep the alliance together, according to an alliance official, the AP reported.

Before the historic vote, the alliance ran on a platform of seeking a united Iraq with full national sovereignty, a timetable for the withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq, a constitutional, pluralistic, democratic and federally united Iraq, a country that respects Islamic people and human rights, and an independent judiciary, according to Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Michigan.

Kurdish Alliance

The two main Kurdish parties in Iraq — the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — set aside their differences and joined forces for the election.

The two parties agreed that PUK leader Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, will be the candidate for a senior government position, and Talabani has indicated he wants the presidency, the AP reported.

If the Kurds do take the presidency, the Shiites are expected to fill the prime minister’s spot.

Although many Kurds, who mostly populate the northern part of Iraq, would prefer outright independence, they are seeking to ensure that the constitution adopts the principle of federalism that would allow them to continue enjoying autonomy in the north, according to the BBC.

“Independence is a natural and legitimate right for the people of Kurdistan,” KDP leader Masoud Barzani told the BBC at the end of January. “But in this phase, federalism is the slogan of the day and that’s what we’re struggling for. It’s the option for this stage. As for the future, let’s see how things go.”

Iraqi List

Considered more secular than the United Iraqi Alliance, the Iraqi List — led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi — fielded 233 candidates including a mix of Shiites and Sunnis in the January elections.

The Iraqi List included the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi Democracy Movement and a variety of smaller parties.

Allawi’s challengers for the prime minister post moving forward include Finance Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and nuclear physicist Hussain Shahristani — both considered moderate members of the Shia List, reported Bloomberg news.

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