More than a week after the elections, Iraqis are still counting the votes. The delay is partially due to security problems in the province of Anbar.
Members of the election commission have remained silent despite having announced plans to publish partial results over the weekend. The word from Bagdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, where the commission is located, is that the results will not be announced until all votes have been counted and all complaints reviewed.
Observers warn, however, that the longer the election commission waits to announce the results of the April 30 parliamentarian elections, the more people will begin to speculate on the numbers and even talk about electoral fraud.
The Etijahat Institute, which conducts regular opinion polls in Iraq, claims to know the results with more than half the votes counted. The institute puts the State of Law Coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in front. The coalition could win between 88 and 92 seats of the 328 seats in the parliament, according to the institute, with the Ahrar bloc of Maliki's rival Muktada al-Sadr capturing between 35 and 41 seats. The institute puts the Muwatin Coalition of the Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim in third place, alongside the Sunni dominated Matahidoun Alliance of Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujeifi.
No taboos on forming a coalition
The election commission denied the authenticity of the results. The Etijahat Institute is known for its al-Maliki friendly position.
Despite doubts on the authenticity of the partial results, observers see a trend emerging. They expect the alliance of Prime Minister al-Maliki, who is campaigning for his third term, to the strongest faction in the parliament but unable to govern by itself as it hoped. Al-Maliki appears to understand this. If during his election campaign the 63-year old Shiite speculated that he would govern alone or possibly only with the help of some smaller parties, he now speaks openly of forming a possible coalition.
Whether al-Maliki can find a coalition partner is another issue. At the end of his second term, he had fallen out with nearly all parties in his governing coalition. The Kurds are at odds with him over the distribution of oil and gas resources and the Sunnis over sharing power, and even the Shiite disagree with him. Shiite rebel Muktada al-Sadr has even gone to so far as to call him a dictator “like Saddam Hussein.”
Parliament Speaker Nujeifi openly expressed his concerns about a third term of al-Maliki. Kurds, Sunnis and Shiite supporters of al-Sadr have allegedly negotiated a coalition without al-Maliki. Leading politicians have also traveled to Erbil to talk with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on how to proceed. Barzani has repeatedly criticized al-Maliki's style of leadership, comparing it to that of a dictator.
Anbar remains a problem
Government troops, tribal leaders and the terror organization ISIS are fighting for the control of Anbar
While the political squabbling over the next governing coalition gains momentum, the election commission is counting the ballots of the 12 million voters for a second time. The ballot boxes had to be brought to the election commission in the Green Zone, where the votes will be checked and recorded electronically until the final results are established. Observers from political parties as well as local and national organizations are allowed to look over the shoulders of the election helpers.
The biggest problem for the election commission is the province of Anbar. Only 30 percent of the voters in Iraq's largest province were able to cast their ballots. Government troops, tribal leaders and the terror organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have been engaged in fierce battles for the control of the province.
Since some of the ballot boxes still haven't arrived in Bagdad, it is doubtful whether the votes from Anbar can be recorded electronically.
This is another reason why it has been taking so long to publish the election results.