Allawi begins coalition talks after Iraqi election win
Former premier Iyad Allawi yesterday began talks, which could last months to form a government after narrowly edging out incumbent Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq's parliamentary elections.
"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 on Saturday, a day after official results showed his Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats in parliament, two more than Maliki's State of Law Alliance.
Of coalition talks, he said: "There have been some talks, but they were only talks. Now, the negotiations begin."
Allawi however is competing with other blocs to be first to form a governing coalition after the supreme court earlier this week gave the green light for political horse-trading between all groups to commence immediately.
Maliki has refused to accept the results from the March 7 poll, insisting figures released Friday night by the election commission remained "preliminary."
Security officials have warned a protracted period of coalition building could give insurgent groups a chance to further destabilise Iraq, with deadly bomb attacks northeast of Baghdad which killed 42 people on Friday illustrating their concerns.
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 Shia religious groups, and Kurdistania, comprised of the autonomous Kurdish region's two long-dominant blocs, which came third and fourth in the election respectively.
Iraq's supreme court, however, on Thursday specified that a clause in the constitution referring to the "largest Council of Representatives bloc" could include groups that came together after the March 7 polls to form new coalitions.