Maliki has shaky lead in Iraq vote count


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s slate had an early lead Saturday as partial results trickled in from the parliamentary elections last weekend.

With 10% to 30% of the vote counted in 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Maliki’s State of Law slate was winning in Baghdad and four southern provinces, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission reported. But his lead could easily be wiped away, with final election results expected to take at least a month to certify.

State of Law, which bills itself as nonsectarian, had predicted it would win 100 seats in the 325-member parliament, taking Baghdad and Iraq’s nine southern provinces. But so far, Maliki’s list is trailing his rivals with the Iraqi National Alliance, the main Shiite religious slate, in two southern provinces.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya slate, an alliance of secular-minded Sunni Arabs and Shiites, has posed the biggest challenge to Maliki and is running second nationally.

Baghdad is seen as pivotal in Maliki’s bid to win enough votes to claim that he represents all Iraqis. But his efforts to be the leader of the next government may prove complicated: The prime minister has alienated his political rivals in the last two years as he has gone from a weak figurehead to strong leader.

His enemies have hoped to cobble together a coalition in the new parliament big enough to block Maliki from a second term, even if he has the largest share of the popular vote.

Maliki’s camp already has signaled its willingness to cut deals to form the next government.

In an interview Friday with the satellite news channel Al Arabiya, Ali Adeeb, a senior member of the prime minister’s slate, gave an indication of Maliki’s strategy: “Our viewpoint is to establish a national partnership government which includes all main components in one government.”

Adeeb said Maliki’s job as prime minister was not negotiable. Even members of the Iraqi National Alliance appeared to be hinting at their readiness to consider Maliki for another term.

“We have no reservation on anybody being in the prime minister post, [including] figures such as Maliki or others,” said Ibrahim Jafari, Maliki’s predecessor and onetime political ally, who has been seeking to reclaim his old post and has become a staunch opponent of his former deputy.

Redha is a Times staff writer.