by RAY FLEMING l IF the Iraqi parliamentary elections had taken place in a constitutionally secular state with years of settled democratic practice behind it, the future for a new stable govenment would be quite bright. The United Iraqi Alliance won 128 seats, the Kurdistan Coalition 53, while the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue and Iraqi Accordance Front, which share similar views, secured 55. Looking at the names of the parties and the seats won it might seem reasonable to think it would not be difficult for an agreement to be reached to form the essential two-thirds majority needed to nominate a presidency council to appoint a cabinet. In fact, the names mean little or nothing, with the exception of the Kurdistan Coalition which represents the independent-minded Kurds who already have a substantial degree of autonomy from any central government and whose principal interest is to retain and strengthen it. However, behind the United Iraqi Alliance lies a Shia coalition dominated by clerics and religious conservatives; it is led by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and includes the Islamist group Dawa and also the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr who led uprisings against the United States soon after the US invasion was victorious. The Iraqi Accordance Front and the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue are both parties representing Sunni religious and nationalist interests. Any attempt to simplify this political jigsaw runs the risk of suggesting that coalition-building will be easy. In fact it will be extremely difficult, likely to last for months, and the outcome is certain to be extremely fragile, leaving open the likelihood of collapse as soon as fundamental religious and constitutional issues have to be faced. One of the most significant results in the election was the whitewash of the US-backed secularist party led by the former prime minister Iyad Allawi which secured only a single seat. Essentially the Iraqi people voted for their own and showed not the slightest interest in parties which ran on a platform of putting the national interest first. It will require extraordinary acts of statesmanship for a government of national unity to emerge from the negotiations that are about to begin.

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