The announcement follows an earlier decision by the IECI to cancel the vote in 227 out of some 31,500 ballot boxes after it determined that the boxes contained both stuffed ballots and unofficial ballots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2006). According to the Iraqi election law, groups will have two days to contest the results, after which they will be certified as official.
The results leave the UIA and the Kurdistan Coalition just one seat short of the two-thirds majority needed in parliament to push through a new government on their own. Kurdish leaders have pushed for the formation of a national unity government that would be inclusive of all Iraqis. Shi'ite leaders have expressed varying opinions on the proposal for such a government.
Iraqi and multinational forces expected intense Sunni Arab reaction to the announcement, and took steps in recent days to seal the borders of the three Sunni Arab-populated governorates (Salah Al-Din, Al-Anbar, and Diyala) ahead of the announcement. The closure is expected to remain in place through 22 January.
However, it is unclear to what extent Sunni Arabs will protest the announcement. They faired reasonably well -- four of the Sunni Arab-dominated lists that took part in the election garnered a total of 59 seats in parliament, five seats more than the Kurds.
With the results in, attention now turns to efforts to form a national unity government. The talks will depend largely on the position adopted by Shi'ite Arab leaders, some of whom appear to be backtracking on key assurances given to Sunni Arabs over the past three months.
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the UIA list, said this week that Shi'a would not support a government formed according to a quota system, something that may raise concerns among Sunni Arabs, who will vie for key cabinet positions.
Al-Hakim has also backtracked on other recent commitments made by the outgoing al-Ja'fari administration to Sunni Arabs. He told followers during his Eid Al-Adha sermon at Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) headquarters in Baghdad on 11 January that any political group intent on participating in a national unity government must show commitment to certain "constants" -- accepting the constitution, de-Ba'athification, and rejecting terrorism (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 January 2006).
Al-Ja'fari's transitional government secured support from Iraq's leading Sunni Arab political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, for the draft constitution ratified in October based on a commitment by the Shi'ite leadership that the document could be amended during the first four months of the incoming government. Efforts by Shi'ite leaders to move away from that commitment will surely strain relations between the two groups in the coming months.
International Investigation Into Election Fraud
The final results of the election was expected last week, but delayed to allow for an independent investigation by the International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IMIE) into allegations of election fraud.
The IMIE released its report on 19 January, saying that fraud had indeed taken place. "Some 2,000 complaints were submitted alleging a wide range of electoral violations and irregularities that include ballot-box stuffing and theft; tally-sheet tampering; intimidation; violence; voter-list deficiencies; shortages of ballots; multiple voting; improper conduct of the police and Iraqi National Guard; voting by security forces [twice]...campaigning within polling centers; and nonobservance of the silent day," the report noted.
The IMIE stopped short, however, of calling for a rerun of the parliamentary elections in affected areas of the country. The report did express concern over the IECI's decision to cancel the 227 ballot boxes, saying the decision also led to the annulment of legitimate ballots. "Canceling ballot boxes without a new election being called in the affected area is particularly regrettable in an electoral system of list proportional representation where the number of votes required to win or lose a seat may vary from governorate to governorate as well as from a given seat to another seat."
The report called for future legislation to explicitly authorize and specify "the conditions under which revoting should be used...for particular polling centers in which fraud, irregularities or other circumstances have been determined to have significantly distorted the election results."
The final report praised voter turnout on election day, and commended the IECI for its "cooperation, transparency, and responsiveness."
United Iraqi Alliance (Shi'ite) 128 seats
Kurdistan Coalition 53 seats
Iraqi Accordance Front (Sunni) 44 seats
Iraqi National List (Allawi -- secular) 25 seats
National Dialogue Front (Sunni) 11 seats
Kurdistan Islamic Union 5 seats
National Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc (Sunni) 3 seats
Risaliyun (Shi'ite, Sadr movement) 2 seats
Al-Rafidayn (Mesopotamia) Party (Christian) 1 seat
Iraqi Turkoman Front 1 seat
Iraqi Nation List (Mithal al-Alusi - Sunni) 1 seat
Yazidi movement 1 seat
KURDISH AWAKENING: The ethnic Kurdish region in the northern part of Iraq has struggled in recent years to reestablish its cultural and political identity after decades of oppression under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In December, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel traveled to this area and filed several reports: