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Allawi Wins and the Media Misses the Significance

Posted on March 26 2010 10:09 pm
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Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s al-Iraqiya bloc has won the most seats in Iraq’s parliament. Polls before the election showed a very comfortable lead for al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which came in a very close second. The biggest loser was the Iraqi National Alliance, a bloc of pro-Iran Shiite religious parties.

In a previous article (click here), I said that the elections were a major defeat for Iran—and I said that thinking Allawi would come in a close second. I have been shocked that the media doesn’t see how truly significant this victory is.

Allawi once worked with the CIA as an opposition leader trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He was so secular and pro-American that the U.S. handed power over to him as the country’s first post-Saddam prime minister in late June 2004. He was widely criticized in his country for authorizing the offensive against Fallujah later that year, and left office widely seen as an American puppet. In 2010, this so-called American puppet’s political bloc received the most votes in Iraq, despite Iranian influence operations.

What’s even more important is what Iraqis voted for in choosing Allawi. He is a staunch secularist and opponent of Iran and Syria. His campaign focused on cross-sectarianism, bringing the Sunnis into his coalition. The fact that the Sunnis voted for a bloc led by a secular Shiite can’t be overlooked. The Iraqis want secular rule that brings together the country.

Al-Iraqiya’s victory doesn’t necessarily mean that Allawi will become prime minister though, as he needs to form a coalition with other blocs. He has 91 of the 325 seats in parliament, although that may change if a partial recount is done as requested by al-Maliki. He needs to reach 163 seats. Al-Maliki, with 89 seats, could form a coalition with the pro-Iran INA that has 70 seats, bringing them to 159.

Middle Eastern politics constantly shifts, though, and so any combination is really possible. The point is that this victory by Allawi tells us some huge things about Iraq, and it goes against most of the mantra we’ve heard over the years about democracy in the Arab world.

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