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After Iraq election, Shiite parties announce alliance to form next government

In the wake of the disputed Iraq election, the two largest Shiite parties announced they are creating an alliance to lead the next government that leaves them just 4 votes shy of a parliamentary majority.

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Nujaifi, a divisive political figure who came to power on an anti-Kurdish platform, says he fears the return of sectarian politics but that the Sunnis will not withdraw from the political process this time.

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“Our constituencies have been through the experience of withdrawing from the political process…we were targets of terrorism or killing. We will not consider withdrawing unless the new alliance is targeting the control of one Iraqi faction over the other.”

Although violence has declined dramatically, sectarian political killings have not stopped.

Iraqi police said a senior Sunni imam was shot by unknown gunmen Wednesday morning as he he was leaving his home in Baghdad’s Amariyah neighborhood. They said Abdul Jalil Fahdawi, a leader of a major alliance of Sunni clerics, was killed along with two of his bodyguards and a relative.

A statement issued by the political wing of several insurgent groups blamed the Iraqi government for the assassinations.

Some Iraqi political analysts are worried about the alliance of the two religious Shiite parties.

“This merger is a failure of the Iraqi people to overcome sectarianism,” says Haider al-Musawi, head of an indendent research center called the Ali al-Wardi Center for Human Development.

The announcement of the alliance was issued just hours after a strong statement from Iraq’s presidency council warning that political maneuvering and delays were undermining the country’s fledgling democracy.

Although Prime Minister Maliki’s State of Law is the strongest partner in the new political bloc, he faces strong internal opposition to retain the post of prime minister. Followers of Mr. Sadr, a powerful element of the new coalition, withdrew from the previous government headed by Maliki. Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, favored by the Sadrists, is widely seen as too sectarian to be an acceptable candidate. The divisions could lead to the emergence of a lesser-known compromise candidate.

The State of Law’s 89 seats combined with the INA’s 70 seats is just four seats short of that needed for a parliamentary majority in the 325-seat parliament. Iraqi voters divided their support in the March 7 elections among four main political blocs – the Shiite coalitions, a Kurdish grouping and Iraqiya. Amid charges of electoral fraud, court challenges and moves to ban winning candidates, the parties have been scrambling to form alliances for a coalition government.

“The announcement of the merger is not the problem but its consequences,” says Mr. Musawi. “If the biggest Shiite bloc made an alliance with the Kurds, and it is most likely to happen, will this marginalize the first winner - the Iraqiya bloc?” He says cutting out the Sunnis would have "catastrophic" consequences.

“This merger is not the beginning of the solution but the beginning of a crisis,” he says.