THE early results from the Iraq election, with more than 90 per cent of votes counted, appear to show that hopes of a non-religious or non-sectarian outcome have been dashed. The coaltion led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister and bearer of most American hopes for a strong secular influence, has won only 20 seats in the 275-seat Council of Representatives that will govern Iraq for the next four years. The religious Shia bloc, the United Iraq Alliance, has 110 seats, the Kurdistan Alliance 42, and the Tawafoq, the main Sunni coaltion, 35. If this pattern is maintained in the 10 per cent of seats still to be declared the Shias may get a narrow majority in the Council but even so may prefer to bring in another party to create a stronger coalition. The problem about the election, however, is that it confirms the reluctance of the Iraq people to vote outside their traditional religious or sectarian boundaries. In other words, there is no sign whatsoever of the development of an Iraq national consciousness which could lead to a government of national unity. This is not at all surprising but there were undoubtedly hopes on the American side that the rigid demarcations lines would be broken down, if only to a small degree. The very poor showing by Ayad Allawi shows that old loyalties are virtually undisturbed by the Anglo/American invasion, the subsequent efforts at building a national democracy and the persistence of the insurgents. Predictably, there have been many protests at the declared results: some 700 have been lodged with the election commission of which about 20 are thought to be serious enough to warrant detailed investigation. However, looking at the broad pattern of the voting, it is extremely unlikely that any necessary revisions will substantially alter a disappointing outcome for the Americans and one that is unlikely to bring the violent activities of the insurgents to an end.