Iraqi Election Raises Tension

Sophia Bollag

Disputes over the results of the March 7 Parliamentary election in Iraq threaten to spark renewed violence in the country. Although the political situation in Iraq is unstable, the Obama

Administration says it still intends to withdraw American troops from Iraq on schedule by December 2011.

After the first count of the votes, the predominantly Sunni coalition led by Ayad Allawi won 91 seats and the primarily Shiite coalition led by current Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki won 89, making their blocs the two largest in the 325-member elected Parliament, though both fell short of the 163 seats needed for a majority. Maliki protested the results, which led to a partial recount that could have potentially undone the slim edge Allawi’s coalition won over Maliki’s.

The recount, however, reaffirmed Allawi’s victory.

Maliki’s coalition has since allied with another primarily Shiite group and their new bloc consists of 159 seats, still short of the 163 needed for a majority. This further heightens tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in the country, as Sunnis feel underrepresented in the new Parliament.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Allawi has warned that the overturning of his apparent victory could lead to violence.”

Because the bloc which wins the most seats in Parliament chooses the next Prime Minister, the merging of the two Shiite groups is especially significant.

The potential disqualification of nine of the winning candidates in Allawi’s bloc because of alleged ties to the former Baath Party, which was loyal to Saddam Hussein, was overruled earlier this month, resolving some of the uncertainty after the elections. Tensions remain high despite this development, however.

Recent sectarian violence in Iraq has made the unstable political situation in the country even more dangerous.