Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Iraq Election, Shiite Parties Announce Alliance to Form Next Government

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Iraq Election, Shiite Parties Announce Alliance to Form Next Government

Article excerpt

In the wake of the disputed Iraq election, the two largest Shiite parties announced they are creating an alliance to lead the next government that leaves them just 4 votes shy of a parliamentary majority.

Iraq's two main Shiite parties brought the country a step toward a new religious-based government by forming an alliance just four seats short of a parliamentary majority. The agreement between the two parties raised fears that Sunnis could once again be cut out of power, sparking a return to sectarian violence.

Underscoring the religious underpinnings of the new alliance, a senior member says the political bloc will be obliged to follow the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a reclusive Najaf-based cleric who is the country's most revered and influential religious figure.

"The guidance of the Supreme Marjai'ee (senior Shiite religious scholars) is to be considered an obligation for the alliance," says Ali al-Adeeb, a leader of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.

The alliance - announced without a name or a leader - foreshadows a showdown over who would be prime minister. Mr. Adeeb says a 14- member committee will vote on who should be the next prime minister. The alliance is composed of Maliki's State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance, an electoral coalition that included the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq and followers of fiery Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and there is no clear consensus between these groups yet on who should lead the country.

Adeeb says the new alliance intends to reach out to Iraqiya, a largely secular coalition heavily favored by Sunni voters that won the most seats in the national election. There was no official indication from Iraqiya, headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, that they would welcome such a move but a powerful Sunni member indicated they could be open to bargaining.

"We are absolutely sure that no one can exclude the Iraqiya list because of our large number of voters...Our bloc will participate strongly in the coming government unless the government chooses to take a sectarian approach," says Atheel al-Nujaifi, the Sunni governor of Mosul whose party is a member of Iraqiya. Acknowledging that the new alliance cuts Iraqiya out of the running for prime minister, Nujaifi indicated that the political bloc would expect other high-level cabinet posts.

The March 7 elections - the second parliamentary elections since Saddam was toppled - have been seen as a way to redress a Sunni boycott which contributed to sectarian divisions in the country that spiraled into civil war four years ago.

Sunni withdrawal?

Nujaifi, a divisive political figure who came to power on an anti- Kurdish platform, says he fears the return of sectarian politics but that the Sunnis will not withdraw from the political process this time. …

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