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IRAQ FACTIONS HORSE-TRADE

Prepared by: CFR.org Staff
January 20, 2006

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The "horse-trading" required to create a new Iraqi government began (BBC) in earnest this weekend after the Friday release of the official tally from Iraq's December 15 parliamentary vote confirmed that Shiite parties will hold the most seats. But the Shiites will still be ten short of an absolute majority (BBC). Sunnis fared far better than in previous rounds, in part because boycotts that hampered turnout did not occur this time around. That will cheer U.S. officials, who talk of Sunni "buy in" to the electoral process as a key element in bringing stability to the country.

The Shiite failure to capture an absolute majority sets the stage for the formation of a coalition government in which Kurdish politicians will hold the balance of power, as noted in this CFR Background Q&A. Meanwhile, Arab politics expert Shibley Telhami tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman he is concerned that neither the Sunnis nor Shiites will be able to overcome their sharp sectarian differences to form a united, stable government. The many Iraqi political parties that ran in the parliamentary elections and are vying for seats in the new National Assembly are outlined here in this CFR Background Q&A.

The results have been delayed by complaints of irregularities (BBC), primarily from Sunni officials. In response, Iraqi election officials have announced they have annulled results from 227 of the 32,000 ballot boxes used (FT)—a proportion that will not seriously influence election results (LAT). The announcement bolsters U.S. and Iraqi officials’ claims that, while isolated violations occurred, the vote was largely free and fair. All this against a backdrop of a still-strong Iraqi insurgency (WashPost), outlined in this CFR Background Q&A.

The process for creating a new government in Iraq is explained in this CFR Background Q&A.

Former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul Bremer tells cfr.org’s Bernard Gwertzman he believes Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions will find a way to work together in a new federal government. Washington is increasingly throwing its weight behind Sunni politicians to ensure they are involved in a new coalition government (CSMonitor), an issue Vice President Dick Cheney plans to tackle this week in meetings with Egyptian and Saudi officials (AP). High on the vice president’s agenda are issues of democratic reform and stability in the Middle East, outlined in this CFR Task Force report on Arab democracy.

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