Allawi Scores in First 15% of Tabulated Iraqi Votes

By Thursday night, February 3, 15% of the 8 million ballots (representing a 57% turnout according to official figures) cast in Iraq’s January 30 general election for 275 national assembly seats had been counted.
Although it is early days for extrapolation, debkafile‘s Iraq specialists list six interesting preliminary results:
1. App. 42% = 123 seats was picked up by Ayatollah Ali Sistani-backed United Iraqi Alliance list of 228 candidates representing 16 political groups headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim’s SCIRI and Ibrahim Al-Jafari’s Al-Daawa.
Comment: As counting progresses, the UIA is expected to gain on its commanding lead and pass the 50% mark for 140 seats.
2. App. 34% = 85 seats went to the United Kurdish list set up jointly by Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani – pretty much as predicted in a CENTCOM forecast on January 27.
Comment: This bonanza is expected to fall substantially to 21% or 50-60 seats when final results are in.
Our analysts stress that aside from the dry figures, the Kurdish vote is important in three ways.
One, Of the 8 million Iraqis who took part in the voting, 2 million were Kurds who managed to bring 95% of all eligible Kurdish voters (almost double the estimated national average) to the polling stations. Their group enlisted a further 400,000 overseas voters in the United States and Europe. Altogether, about 28% of the ballots were cast by Kurds, far in excess of their community’s 16-18% weight in the general population.
Two, As we revealed on election day, the Kurds artificially inflated their support in Kirkuk by importing tens of thousands of armed voters from across Kurdistan – at the expense of other groups. Ankara has demanded an explanation from Washington of this daylight robbery of votes and threatens the use of Turkish military force to rectify the distortion.
Three, The Kurdish lead is treated as a useful asset in interim prime minister Iyad Allawi’s moves to form a coalition that will keep him in the prime minister’s chair. He is already in talks with Kurdish leaders to this end.
3. App. 20% is a better-than-predicted gain for the group headed by pro-American Allawi and outgoing president Ghazi Yawar and has raised Allawi’s hopes of staying in office. The prime minister and president need a two-thirds majority in the national assembly to be confirmed.
The Allawi-Yawar group came out in top place in the northern city of Mosul; in second spot behind the UIA in large Shiite constituencies like Baghdad, Najef and Karbala.
Comment: This windfall owes much to Allawi’s successful performance as prime minister and his widespread popularity. But he also profited from the support of Ayatollah Hussein Sadr of Baghdad, a moderate who takes issue with the way Sistani leads the Shiite community.
4. Another surprisingly strong showing was made quietly (in preliminary results) by the almost unknown “Islamic Operation Organization” which quietly stole into third place in all the Shiite districts. Composed of Shiite independents and liberal intellectuals, this list is headed by ayatollah Mohammed Taki Mudrassi, Sistani’s leading rival in the Shiite clergy.
5. The voters of the largest Iraqi Shiite city, Basra, who oppose the US and British presence, took a stand against Sistani by returning to commanding positions two lists that ran nowhere else, Al Fadillah Ismailiya (Islamic Charity) and the United Democratic Front (an amalgam of communists and non-religious liberals). For good measure, Basra also dropped Sistani’s candidates in the local council election.
Comment: debkafile‘s Iraq experts note that political trends in Basra influence a large cluster of satellite towns strung along the Iraq-Iran border, such as al Amara, al Qut and Baqouba.
Three contesting ayatollahs are therefore seen as powerful wheels in the early results.
6. The overseas vote was of prime significance, not only for the communities who escaped Saddam Hussein’s persecution but also for their numerical impact on election results. The Assyrian Christians, for example, would have been denied representation in the national assembly – particularly as a result of Kurdish strong-arm tactics in Kirkuk and Mosul – without a strong turnout of thousands in Australia, Michigan, Detroit and Los Angeles. The Kurds too supplemented their local support by getting the vote out in Britain and France.

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