Iraq’s former prime minister Iyad Allawi has edged past his rival, the current PM Nuri al-Maliki as results are counted from the country’s general election ten days ago.
The new initial results reverse those from earlier counts. They had given Maliki’s mainly Shi’ite State of Law coalition the lead. Allawi’s cross-sectarian list is now narrowly in front having won support among minority Sunnis keen to reclaim influence they lost when Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.
With 80 percent of the ballots counted, only about 9,000 votes separate the two rivals.
Judge Qasim al-Abudi of the Independent High Electoral Commission said a few more days were needed before the outcome would be announced. The Commission has been criticised for delaying the results, heightening tension and attracting accusations of fraud.
It is feared that the fragmented vote and potential lack of a clear winner could lead to months of political bargaining and create a volatile power vacuum.
The stability of a future government will be key to maintaining security in the run-up to the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops at the end of next year.