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Iraqi Blocs Negotiating To Form Ruling Coalition

A passerby and a campaign poster of former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the National Reform Movement in Baghdad in February
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say the parties that placed second and third in the March 7 parliamentary elections are in advanced talks on forming a broad ruling coalition, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani, a leading member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc, told RFI that talks "are at an advanced stage."

He said the negotiations are about forming a majority coalition between the State of Law, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) of former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (including the mainly Shi'ite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist movement), and the Kurdistan Alliance.

Hassani added that talks are also under way with "some factions of the Al-Iraqiyah alliance" led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Al-Iraqiyah was the leading vote-getter in the elections with 25.87 percent, narrowly edging out State of Law, which polled 25.76 percent of the vote. The INA finished third with 19.43 percent.

But Kurdistan Alliance member Muhsin Saadun told RFI that no deal is possible without an agreement on nominating incumbent President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, for a second term. Saadun said, "we will not agree on the next prime minister unless we reach a consensus on the president," who is elected by the parliament.

Azhar al-Shaykhly, who was elected as a member of Allawi's bloc, told RFI that Al-Iraqiyah is engaged with various factions to explore forming a broad-based alliance.

But Rashid al-Azzawi, a leading member of the Accord bloc, told RFI that "a majority coalition comprising the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance is as good as a done deal," while "Al-Iraqiyah is breaking up, with each of its component parts negotiating on their own behalf."

The Accord bloc, which is made up of Sunni parties, saw its strength reduced from 44 seats in the outgoing parliament to six in the new one. Al-Iraqiyah won 91 seats, State of Law 89, and INA 70 in the 325-seat Council of Representatives.

The Supreme Federal Court ruled on March 9 that the largest coalition formed when the first session of parliament meets -- not the largest party according to the election results -- will be nominated to form a new government.

That means that although Allawi's Al-Iraqiyah won the most votes, it doesn't mean he will be selected to put together a cabinet and become prime minister.