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Iraqi Leaders Maneuver After Initial Certification of Poll Results


FILE - Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference in Najaf, Iraq, Nov. 18, 2021.

Iraqi TV reported Wednesday that the country's electoral commission had sent its final results to the country's highest court for final approval, as top political leaders consulted each other to form a new government.

The broadcast indicated that the court had no deadline for announcing its decision, but observers expected it to hand down its response by the end of next week.

Electoral commission head Adnan Jalil said at a press conference Tuesday that the body's initial results had been confirmed, with a few exceptions. He said that after going through all complaints and appeals, there were one-seat changes in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Basra, Mosul and Irbil provinces.

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc won the most seats in parliament with 73, is insisting on forming a government including the top winners in the election from Sunni and Kurdish political parties. Parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi's Sunni party came in second with 37 seats and the top Kurdish party won 31.

Al-Sadr said the only solution for Iraq was the formation of a government representing the majority. He said he was willing to be in either the majority or the minority, but not in a coalition with weaker parties. History, he argued, shows that coalition governments don't work.

Researcher Maan Jabbouri told Iraqi TV that al-Sadr would undoubtedly stick to his stated position about forming a majority coalition with the top Sunni and Kurdish political parties and was now in consultations with them. Sadr, he added, is in a comfortable position.

'No obvious' election wrongdoing

Mounaf al-Moussawi of the Baghdad Center for Strategic Studies told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that "there was no obvious appearance of wrongdoing in the election," so he expected Iraq's top court would "approve the election results in around a week to 10 days." He added that the U.N.'s top observer in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert, had given a thumbs-up to the election as well.

Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst on the Atlantic Council, a global affairs research group, told VOA that Iraq has a spotty record on democracy, but that the election appeared to be a step in the right direction, although he saw Iran reinforcing its hand inside Iraq.

"Many will be unhappy with the results. ... If there were any shenanigans in the elections in Iraq, I would not be surprised. Democracy is hardly a developed concept in the country. … Iraqis have a hard past. Let's hope for a better future. Peaceful, even if imperfect, elections can be steps in those ways," he said.

Sullivan said he thought, however, that "Iran has increased its leverage in the country with this result," and that "not much good will likely come from it."

Iraqi media showed political leaders who trailed al-Sadr, including former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, Shiite cleric Ammar Hakim and militia leader Khais Khazali, holding talks with other leaders to try to salvage some influence after a poor showing. Hakim was seen meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and Maliki was reported to have tried to contact al-Sadr.

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