Allawi emerges strongest in polls

BAGHDAD: Ex-premier Iyad Allawi, whose bloc emerged strongest in parliamentary polls, today launched talks with political foes in a bid to form a coalition to rule war-ravaged Iraq for the next five years.

Final results released yesterday showed that Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats in parliament, two more than Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance.

“There must be a strong government, capable of taking decisions which serve the Iraqi people, and bring peace and stability to Iraq,” Allawi told a press conference today.

Of coalition talks, he said: “There have been some talks, but they were only talks. Now, the negotiations begin.” Discussions, he added, would be held with all political groups “without exception.” He also promised that Iraq would open a “new page” and establish “better relations” with its neighbours — Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Neither Iraqiya nor State of Law clinched an overall majority in the 325-member Council of Representatives, with Allawi vowing after the results to “work with all sides” to form a government.

He has appointed Rafa al-Essawi, current deputy prime minister and a member of his alliance, to lead negotiations over coalition formation.

Allawi said before the full results were released that he would not join forces with Maliki unless the incumbent changed his policies. He has confirmed previous talks with the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition led by Shiite religious groups, and Kurdistania, comprised of the autonomous Kurdish region’s two long-dominant blocs, which came third and fourth in the election respectively.

Maliki has refused to accept the results from the March 7 poll, insisting figures released last night by the election commission remained “preliminary.”

Allawi is competing with other blocs to be first to form a governing coalition.