Sistani's Shia alliance on top

THE SHIA alliance was on course for victory in Iraq’s landmark elections according to partial results released by the country’s election commission last week. However, there is still no clear indication on who will emerge as Iraq's next prime minister.

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By  Rhys Jones & Massoud A. Derhally Published  February 13, 2005

THE SHIA alliance was on course for victory in Iraq’s landmark elections according to partial results released by the country’s election commission last week. However, there is still no clear indication on who will emerge as Iraq's next prime minister. Provisional results released by Iraq’s election commission on February 7 showed Shia parties strengthening their lead. At the time of Arabian Business going to press the Shia United Iraqi Alliance had more than twice the votes of the second-placed Kurdish alliance. The commission announced partial results from 13 of the country’s 18 provinces, which showed that the United Iraqi Alliance had roughly 2.3 million votes, with a coalition of Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties winning around 1.1 million. The secular bloc led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had around 620,000 votes. Most of the provisional results came from the Kurdish-ruled northern provinces or the southern, mainly Shia areas. The Shia alliance had taken a surprise lead in the province of Salaheddin, which includes the majority Sunni cities of Samarra and Tikrit. At the time of going to press, many Sunni areas had still not reported results, but partial figures from Salaheddin suggested many Sunnis boycotted the poll, as urged by their leaders. Iraq election commission figured said the United Iraqi Alliance was leading in Salaheddin with 27,645 votes while the Kurdish Alliance had 18,791 votes, with the party headed by Iraq’s Sunni President, Ghazi Yawer, third on 15,832. The provisional results indicate what some Arab leaders have feared: that the Shiites would win the elections and raise the spectre of what has been labelled the ‘Shiite crescent’ in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Preliminary indications suggest that Iraq’s Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani’s projected landslide victory could lead to him taking as much as 63%-70% of the vote, a feat aided by the Sunnis who boycotted the election in Ramadi, Fallujah and Samarra. The fact that Sistani and another top cleric have demanded that Shari’a be the sole source of legislation in the constitution that has yet to be drafted, will be a major blow to America’s hopes of a secular Iraq, raising fears of another conservative theocratic state in the region. A statement released by Sheikh Ibrahim Ibrahimi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq Al Fayad, one of the five key marja, or Shiite religious leaders, said. “All of the ulema [clergy] and marja, and the majority of the Iraqi people, want the national assembly to make Islam the source of legislation in the permanent Constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam,” said the statement. Despite the expected victory by the Shia alliance, US Vice-President Dick Cheney has brushed aside concerns that Iraq would become an Iranian-styled theocracy. “They will do it in accordance with their culture and their history and their beliefs, and whatever role they decide they want to have for religion in their society. And that’s as it should be,” he said last week. Around 8 million Iraqis out 14 million registered voters turn-ed up to elect candidates for the 275 seat national assembly. The impressive 57% voter turnout was hailed by the Bush administration as testimony to the will of the Iraqi people to recapture their country from a stubborn insurgency. “The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the centre of the Middle East. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists,” US President George W. Bush said. Meanwhile, officials have confirmed irregularities in Mosul, saying more than 15,000 people were denied a vote. Commission official Izzedine Al Mahmoudi said some people in the northern city and surrounding province were unable to cast ballots because voting materials ran out and election staff failed to show up. Furthermore, he alleged that some polling stations in the area were raided by gunmen. The electoral commission said it had received more than 100 complaints of irregularities within the system, and has formed an independent team of lawyers to investigate.

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