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US expresses first concerns over Iraq election results

US Ambassador Christopher Hill today expressed concern that nearly two months after the Iraq election, a government has not been formed. Complicating the drawn-out process, Iraqi officials today disqualified two winning candidates.

By Jane Arraf and Mohammed al-DulaimyCorrespondents / April 26, 2010



Baghdad

Iraqi election authorities on Monday announced the disqualification of two winning parliamentary candidates because of alleged Baathist ties while the US said publicly for the first time it was concerned about delays in forming a new Iraqi government.

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“We have an election that took place on March 7. We are now approaching the two-month period [of waiting for final results] and we are concerned that the process is lagging,” Ambassador Chris Hill said Monday in the first public indication of concern by the US government over elections seen as crucial to stability.

“We have not gone on to government formation as of yet and we share the concern of those who believe that its time that the politicians got down to business and started forming a government,” he said at a briefing for Western journalists.

52 candidates declared ineligible

Iraq election officials on Monday said they had been instructed by a review panel that it was upholding a decision by the Justice and Accountability commission that 52 candidates in the parliamentary elections had been deemed ineligible to have run, including at least one Sunni candidate belonging to the Iraqiya coalition, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s major challenger.

“The decision is to disqualify 52 candidates, set aside all the votes they won in the elections and to rule out the winning candidates,” says Ali Faisal al-Lami, executive director of the controversial Justice and Accountability Commission.

He says the disqualified candidates include two who won parliamentary seats in the March 7 vote. Of the disqualified candidates, 22 of the 52 are from the Iraqiya list led by secular Shiite political Ayad Allawi, which has a narrow lead over Maliki’s party. One of the winning politicians, Ibrahim al-Mutlak, is the brother of prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlak, who was disqualified – for alleged Baathist ties – by the commission before the vote. The disqualification at the time threatened to derail the election process, which for the first time included substantial Sunni representation.

Maliki seeks to narrow gap to rival Allawi

It's unclear yet whether the disqualification of 52 candidates would change the number of seats held by the major political coalitions.

The four major political blocs that have split the 325 parliamentary seats between them have been waiting for final results to be certified before starting serious negotiations on forming a coalition government. Most of those negotiations are expected to be over who will be prime minister or retain leading cabinet positions. Maliki is seen to be desperate to narrow the two-seat gap between his coalition and former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi's' Iraqiya list.

“I want to stress that what is needed to run this country is 163 seats not 91 or 89 but 163 and I think an inordinate amount of time is being spent on a first phase that will not determine who rules this country in the next four years,” said Mr. Hill.

Ruling is endangering Iraq's democracy

Iraqiya politicians said this latest ruling, and last week's decision to hold a recount of more than 20 percent of the votes after Maliki alleged fraud, was endangering Iraq’s fledgling democracy. The UN, which advised on the process, has said it saw no evidence of widespread fraud.

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