Election result expected to deepen Sunnis' sense of isolation - and stir further unrest

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The Independent Online

Iraq will have to wait a few more days for final results of the election held two weeks ago, officials said yesterday. Most Iraqis blame the long delay on bureaucratic failings, but some are beginning to spread rumours that the ballot is being falsified or otherwise manipulated.

Iraq will have to wait a few more days for final results of the election held two weeks ago, officials said yesterday. Most Iraqis blame the long delay on bureaucratic failings, but some are beginning to spread rumours that the ballot is being falsified or otherwise manipulated.

Provisional final results were announced for provincial councils in 12 of the 18 provinces, showing Shia religious groups winning in much of the country. The final result of the national poll is likely to confirm that the Shia coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance has won a little over half the votes. It may end up with 143 to 145 seats in the 275-member Assembly.

But a simple majority in the new assembly is not enough to win control: for this two-thirds of the seats are needed, a system devised to ensure that none of Iraq's three biggest communities - the Shia, Sunni or Kurds - can rule without the co-operation of one of the others.

The Shia coalition will therefore need an agreement with the Kurds, who are expected to win between 75 and 85 seats. A surprise of the election was that the numerous smaller parties picked up few votes. The only one to do well was the Iraqi List of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, which is expected to get 15-17 per cent of the vote.

It is extremely unlikely, however, that Mr Allawi will be able to remain in the post, which will be something of a blow to the US. President George Bush had received him in Washington as if he was the chosen representative of the Iraqi people and not an American appointee.

Instead the choice of prime minister seems to be narrowing down to Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Dawa Shia religious party or Adel Abdul Mehdi, the Finance Minister and a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The prime minister will only be selected after a president and two vice presidents have been appointed.

In theory the Shias have won power by their electoral victory, but real authority may prove elusive. The new government will depend, as did its predecessor, on the US army occupying Iraq. Most Iraqis say they want the US out, but the new government dare not let them depart yet.

The poll has also deepened the Sunni Arabs' sense of isolation. The Kurdish community was able to destabilise Iraq for half a century, and Sunnis say they are capable of doing the same.

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