Convoluted government formation process in Iraq

Baghdad: Iraq’s general election has brought dozens of new candidates into parliament, while some long-serving players lost their seats, as many voters sought to call time on the elite.

But voters’ frustration was also evident in a record high abstention rate — turnout was just 44.52 per cent, the lowest since the country’s first multiparty elections in 2005.

Here is a rundown of some of the main winners and losers from the May 12 poll, as the 329-seat parliament begins to take shape, ahead of what could be a convoluted bargaining process to cobble together a viable coalition.

Firebrand cleric Moqtada Al Sadr’s Marching Towards Reform (Sairoon) bloc won a better-than-expected 54 seats, making it the biggest single player in the next parliament.

Al Sadr, who has reinvented himself as an anti-corruption crusader in an alliance with secular leftists, is looking to be the kingmaker and oversee the formation of a cross-sectarian, technocrat government from some dozen parties.

Still in the game

Poised in second place with 47 seats is the pro-Iranian Conquest Alliance made up of former fighters from mainly Shiite paramilitary units that battled Daesh.

The Victory Alliance of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, who declared victory over Daesh in December, performed worse than expected, slotting into third place, with 42 seats.

Mixed fortunes for Al Maliki

Nobody got more votes than Nouri Al Maliki, despite making way as prime minister under a cloud for Al Abadi in 2014 after Daesh seized a third of the country’s territory.

With more than 100,000 votes, Al Maliki got twice the number of ballots won by Al Abadi.

But experts say Al Maliki’s vote haul will not be enough for him to take back the reins of power, since his Rule of Law Alliance only took 26 seats, compared to 92 last time around.

Elected on a shoestring

The first session of the next parliament will be presided over by Mohammad Zeini, who, at 79 years old, becomes parliament Speaker, pending the selection of a new legislative president.

The new entrant, a graduate in hydrocarbon economics from the University of Colorado, ran in Baghdad with the cheapest campaign in Iraq’s electoral history.

Zeini’s campaign was entirely internet based and he won 7,300 votes, eclipsing the 4,000 secured by the outgoing speaker Salim Al Juburi.


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