Maliki, Allawi top contenders

BAGHDAD: Coalitions led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and arch-rival ex-premier Iyad Allawi have emerged as favourites among voters as Iraq heads towards March 7 elections, a survey has shown.

Maliki’s State of Law

Coalition leads with 29.9 per cent while Allawi’s Al-Iraqiya secular alliance trails with 21.8 per cent, according

to details of the poll by

the National Media Centre, a government agency, received today by AFP.

Allawi last month unveiled a broad secular alliance

with fellow Shiites and

Sunni politicians including MP Saleh al-Multaq, who

has been banned from

competing in the poll for alleged links to Saddam Hussein’s former regime.

Maliki, who formed his multi-confessional alliance along with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties in October 2009, also heads the Shiite religious Dawa party.

The poll was conducted in the first two weeks of February among a cross-section of 5,000 Iraqis in the country’s 18 provinces, with 53 per cent of those interviewed men and 47 per cent women.

Of those surveyed, 17.2 per cent said they would

cast their ballots in the legislative vote for the Iraqi National Alliance which groups the country’s main Shiite parties — the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the movement loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Ten per cent of voters said they would choose the Kurdish Alliance over all others while the United Iraqi Alliance of Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, an independent Shiite, is due to get five per cent of votes.

The Sunni Muslim National Concord Front is at the bottom of the list with only 2.7 per cent of Iraqis expected to vote for it, the survey showed.

Allawi and Bolani are

both trying to unseat

Maliki, who is also a Shiite.

Around 4.9 per cent of Iraqi voters had no opinion

while 2.2 did not respond to the survey, which has a

two per cent margin of error, the report said.

The National Media Centre is linked to Prime Minister Maliki and the survey

was carried out from February 1-15. It was published on Tuesday but the full details only emerged today.

According to the survey, only two thirds of Iraqi voters — or 63 per cent — will head to the polls compared to a 79.63 per cent turnout in the last election five years ago.

A total of 63 per cent of Shiites said they will vote in March compared to 58 per cent of Sunnis, who had boycotted the 2005 election, the first held after the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Kurds will be the largest ethnic group to vote, with 67 per cent saying they will cast their ballots followed by 57 per cent of Arabs.