Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's electoral list narrowly edged the incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Maliki's State of Law alliance in the official (but uncertified) results of the March 7 elections announced today. The horse-trading and deal-making which will produce a new government will now accelerate. But to a very large extent, a little-noticed Federal Supreme Court decision yesterday drained the drama from today's announcement. Despite Allawi's winning two more seats than his rival, he may not get the chance to form a government. Allawi's chances of becoming Iraq's Prime minister will hinge largely on the question of how much Maliki's Shiite rivals really hate him... and how loyal his political allies will be if their Shiite co-religionists make his exit a condition to forming a government.
Nabil Ahmed, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq, says there are no parties immediately strong enough to form a ruling coalition on their own...Ahmed says that means tough fights ahead. "The winning lists are strong enough to try to make alliances with smaller parties,” he says. “But they also are strong enough to try to break each other apart by wooing away wavering loyalists. So there will be many battles and efforts to create new alliances in the days ahead."
Reidar Visser describes the next steps. First the vote has to be certified:
[If] certification takes place around 1 April, a meeting of the new parliament must be held within 15 April, a new president must be elected within 15 May, a PM nominee must be identified by 1 June, and a new cabinet must be presented for approval by parliament before 1 July. The psychological deadline is likely to be the start of Ramadan around 10 August and the scheduled completion of withdrawal of US combat troops by 31 August.
[T]he two men may consider forming a government of national unity. Their views are much closer than their fierce and rhetorically exaggerated campaign rivalry suggests. Together they would have a comfortable majorityand a chance to reconcile Iraq’s two main Muslim sects. The trouble is that neither man can abide the idea of playing second fiddle.