Shiite Alliance Leads In Partial Iraq Count

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 19 -- The first results from Iraq's national parliamentary election showed powerful support for the leading Shiite Muslim religious alliance, and suggested that the country's splintered politics have coalesced into a few large political groups divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Election officials announced unofficial results Monday from 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces and Baghdad, the largest city, showing the Shiite alliance leading overwhelmingly in central and southern Iraq. As expected, a coalition of Kurds dominated the north, while votes from the mainly Sunni Muslim western provinces have not been reported.

The results, which elections officials said were incomplete and subject to challenge, appeared to dash the hopes of secular parties that voters would reject the religious and ethnic-based groups. The party of former prime minister Ayad Allawi, which campaigned for a secular, unified Iraq, received just 14 percent of the vote in Baghdad, his stronghold.

The preliminary returns pointed toward an Iraqi government that would be led for the next four years by a conservative Shiite religious alliance that has close ties to Iran, presiding over a country hardening into three mutually suspicious political blocs.

The results showed that other small slates, including that of former U.S. confidant Ahmed Chalabi, did not appear likely to gain representation in the first round of allocating seats for the National Assembly. But the intricate system for doling out 45 of the 275 assembly seats is designed to reward small parties, and Chalabi could join the parliament when those seats are distributed.

"It's still preliminary," said Francis Brooke, an American adviser to Chalabi. "We are a little surprised that those numbers don't match the numbers from our poll observers."

The results, based on counts of 89 to 99 percent of the votes cast in the 11 provinces reporting, brought complaints from some parties, which said the totals were significantly different from those reported by their observers at the polls. The elections commission has received 690 complaints alleging voting violations, according to Adil Lami, the head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

"These are not true results. These are forged," charged Khalaf Elayan, secretary general of the National Dialogue Council, one of the main Sunni parties. "We have our numbers that we got through our observers, and they differ from those. We have a lot of support in Baghdad. The numbers they gave cannot be true."

In Baghdad, with 89 percent of the vote counted, the main Shiite alliance received 61 percent of the vote, and the Sunni list 20 percent.

Mithal Alusi, a former Chalabi aide who ran as a candidate of an independent secular party, said he had "direct" information from polling centers "that we had thousands of voters in the south. And my question now is where are those voters? Where are the numbers?

"Our democratic system is in danger," he said. "Whoever has control is trying to steal the election."

In the south -- where nearly all ballots had been counted in most of the provinces -- the United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shiite electoral grouping, swept the voting, outpolling second-place Allawi by a margin of 10 to 1.

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