The slate headed by the main Kurdish parties won the second-largest bloc of votes, putting them in a stronger position to press for greater autonomy in the northeastern part of the country, known as Iraqi Kurdistan. They also won a majority in local elections in Tamin province, which includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. There is widespread support among Kurds to incorporate the city into the Kurdish autonomous region.
The new government also faces the challenge of how to entice Sunni-based parties that boycotted the elections to participate in the new government, and in what form. Wealthy layers among the Sunni minority were the backbone of support for the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Sections of them are also reportedly behind the financing, organizing, and supplying of Baathist-led groups that have been responsible for numerous suicide bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings of hostages.
Iraqi election officials said the 48 percent of the vote won by the United Iraqi Alliance should translate into about 140 of the 275 seats in the national assembly, according to the February 14 New York Times. The slate headed by Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the U.S.-appointed interim governmenta wealthy Shiite and former Baathistreceived less than 14 percent of the votes, and should receive 40 seats. The slate backed by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia fought fierce battles with U.S. troops last year, is projected to get three seats.
Two seats will go to the Iraqi Communist Party, which held posts in the Governing Council and the interim government. Both of these bodies were appointed under the U.S. occupation.
Voter turnout was high among Shiites, reaching up to 75 percent in the southern provinces. Shiites make up 65 percent of the population. They and the Kurds were brutally repressed by Hussein regime.
Explosive result in Kirkuk
The Kurdistan Alliance received 26 percent of the vote. That slate, headed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), is projected to receive around 75 seats, according to the Times. Voting in Iraqi Kurdistan was even higher than among Shiites in the south, averaging 85 percent. Kurds make up 20 percent of Iraqs population.
The Kurdistan Brotherhood list, backed by the same parties, won 58.4 percent of the vote in the provincial ballot held simultaneously in Tamim, reported Agence France-Presse. The slate reportedly received 1.5 million of the 1.75 million votes cast in the predominantly Kurdish provinces in northeastern Iraq. The Tamim province includes Kirkuk, which the Financial Times reports has oil reserves estimated at more than 8 billion barrels and is Iraqs second-largest oilfield.
About 100,000 Kurds, whose families had been brutally driven from the province by the Hussein regimes Arabization scheme, were allowed to vote in Kirkuk. Thousands of Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians were forcibly removed from the province, particularly since the 1970s under Baath party rule. Their lands and homes were given to Sunni Arabs, many of whom were in turn forced to move to the area to strengthen the regimes hold over the strategic region. The largest numbers of Kurds were displaced during the armed conflict and genocidal Anfal campaign of 1988 under the Hussein regime.
Turkeys foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, threatened that Ankara might take action if the Kurds attempt to take control of Kirkuk, according to a February 1 Al-Jazeera TV broadcast. Kurds inhabit a territory that stretches across northern Iraq, southern Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria. This area is viewed by many Kurds as historic Kurdistan. The governments of these countries fear any move toward Kurdish autonomy in Iraq as potentially inciting national aspirations among their Kurdish populations. Washington has assured Ankara that it opposes Kurdish independence.
Sunnis make overtures
A slate headed by interim government president Ghazi al-Yawar is said to have won enough votes to receive five assembly seats. Al-Yawar and Adnan Pachachi, whom it appears will win no seats, were among a handful of prominent wealthy Sunnis who participated in the elections.
The largest Sunni organizationsthe Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS)called for a boycott of the elections. But leaders of the IIP have made overtures of cooperation following the outcome of the vote. Our view is that the election was a step towards democracy and ending the occupation, said Ayah al-Samaray, an assistant to the IIP general secretary, according to a dispatch in the London-based Guardian. He called the boycott a blunder, the report said. Mishan Jobouri, another prominent Sunni politician, said the clerics were responsible for the catastrophic results, the Washington Post reported.
The IIP was suppressed by the Baathist but participated in the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, an advisory body to the U.S. occupation regime headed by proconsul Paul Bremer. It quit the interim government in protest of the U.S. military assault against Baathist strongholds in Fallujah last November.
A meeting at the AMS headquarters stipulated setting a deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq as a condition for its participation in drafting a new constitution. Al-Jazeera said the meeting also included an Arab nationalist, a former member of the Hussein regime, and representative of Muqtada al-Sadr.
The AMS was formed in Iraq shortly after the overthrow of Husseins regime by the U.S. military.
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