In essence, the agreement is little more than a recognition by all sides of the need to form a coalition government that is based on consensus and cooperation rather than sectarian quotas, Accordance Front leader Adnan al-Dulaymi told reporters in Salah Al-Din. Meeting participants said the talks did not focus on leadership positions, saying such issues would be addressed once the election results are finalized.
The Accordance Front -- representing three major Sunni Arab political parties -- appears to have won a majority of the Sunni Arab votes in the 15 December parliamentary elections, and is expected to garner at least 40 of the 275 parliamentary seats when final election results are announced sometime next week. Breaking Ranks
The talks came as a surprise to other Sunni Arab leaders, who claimed that the Accordance Front violated an agreement with other Sunni Arab parties not to enter talks about the formation of the next government until those parties' claims of election fraud are resolved.
As the talks were taking place, Sunni Arab leader Salih al-Mutlaq told Al-Arabiyah television from Baghdad: "Brothers from the Accordance Front said before traveling to northern Iraq that the dialogue will focus on the issue of elections, not around the details of forming a national unity government.... If [the Accordance Front] has gone to discuss the formation of a national unity government, we would have been invited to attend this meeting."
Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 1 January that the front said it would accept whatever decision was issued by an international observer team that is investigating the allegations of vote fraud in the election. The front's position appears to be based on a belief that the international observers will have the power to issue a legally binding ruling on the election. Contentious Issue Of International Observers
The team, sent by the International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IMIE), includes two Arab League representatives, one executive member of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians, and an unidentified European academic, according to the mission's website (http://www.imie.ca).
Tariq al-Hashimi, secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is part of the Accordance Front, told Al-Jazeera television on 1 January that he believed that the final decision of the international team would be legally binding. "This committee is coming to Iraq based on international authorization. As far as I know, the Iraqi government has also approved it. Therefore, its decisions must be binding. In a statement issued by the Accordance Front, we welcomed this committee and said it must be armed with legal power so that it can examine all the work done by the [Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission] and make a number of recommendations within the powers vested in it," he said.
Al-Hashimi's position, evidenced by other comments to the media this week, signals a growing split within the Accordance Front. Front leader al-Dulaymi has taken a more pragmatic approach to resolving the political crisis and appears to be focusing his efforts on positioning his party for a greater role in the next cabinet.
Al-Hashimi and Khalaf al-Ulayyan, the secretary-general of the National Dialogue Council, also a front member, have both said that unless the vote-fraud question is satisfactorily resolved, armed conflict may erupt. Al-Ulayyan suggested last week that civil war might break out (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 December 2005). Al-Hashimi contended in his interview with Al-Jazeera that the Accordance Front was committed to political dialogue, but cautioned that it participation hinged on a resolution to its liking. Should Sunni Arab parties decide to boycott the political process, he said, "We will have no option other than engaging in armed jihad." Betting On The Monitors
The arrival of the international team was widely applauded by the other parties contesting the election under the banner Maram (Mu'tamar Rafadi Al-Intikhabat Al-Muzawra, or the Conference for Rejecting the Forged Election) (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 December 2005).
Mahdi al-Hafiz, a member of former Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqi National List, told Al-Sharqiyah television in a 3 January interview that the bloc has prepared a file containing "evidence" of election fraud that it will present to the IMIE in Baghdad.
Al-Hafiz welcomed the arrival of the observer group, telling the news channel: "All political parties should understand the importance of the legality of the intervention of international monitors. It is equally important for those parties to present all evidence...even if they were conflicting, of what occurred in the election."
Adnan Pachachi, head of the Independent Democrats Grouping, told Al-Arabiyah in a 2 January interview that his party has not reached a decision as to whether it will boycott the political process should the allegation of election fraud fail to be addressed, but he added that the party still prefers to participate in the political process. "We do not issue threats. The opposition can be inside and outside the government. This is a sound democratic [practice] that exists worldwide," he said.
Click on the poster for an enlarged image.
The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission issued posters in Arabic and the two dialects of Kurdish on the allocation of National Assembly seats by governorate for the 15 December National Assembly election. The poster says, "230 seats for the governorates, as well as 45 compensatory and national seats," while the corresponding map shows the breakdown of seats by governorate.
For more background on the election,
For a complete archive of RFE/RL coverage, background, and analysis of the December 15, 2005, legislative elections, click here.