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Race for Top Iraq Post Narrows to 2 Shiites

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The article below might high light some of the political struggle inside Coalition list between secular and Islamists..

The writer might not be accurate in calling the chamces of Mr. Chalabee as loo. He is the one who is calling for secret voting within the list in resolving the issue. That is because he is confident of getting the votes of the larger scular and sunni members than the 30% islamists members in the slate.. He is also relying on the Alsadrees members.

This article might be a proove to those who still believe that this is not a democracy,and keep putting it as just an American played prpoganda..




  Race for Top Iraq Post Narrows to 2 Shiites



Published: February 16, 2005



AGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 15 - The race for the top job in Iraq's new government narrowed Tuesday to two leaders in the Shiite alliance, with Ibrahim Jafari of the Dawa Party squaring off against Ahmad Chalabi, who was mounting a last-minute stand against his rival.


Dr. Jafari, a physician who spent more than 20 years in exile and is now a deputy president in the interim government, improved his chances on Tuesday when he persuaded another rival, Adil Abdul Mahdi, to withdraw from the race.





Dr. Jafari's party, Dawa, and Mr. Mahdi's, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri, are the two largest groups in the Shiite alliance, which captured a slim majority of the votes in the election on Jan. 30.


Hamam Hamoudi, a senior leader in Sciri, said his group had agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi's bid to be prime minister "out of our desire to maintain the unity of the alliance."


While aides to Dr. Jafari were predicting victory, people close to Mr. Chalabi said he had gathered enough votes to secure the post for himself. Mr. Chalabi's aides said they planned to call for a vote of the alliance's 140 likely assembly members at a meeting on Wednesday.


At least on paper, Mr. Chalabi appeared to have a chance. Although Dawa and Sciri are the largest parties in the Shiite coalition, known as the United Iraqi Alliance, together they have only about a quarter of the 140 seats captured in the election. The rest of the winning candidates are members of other parties or politically independent.


The rivalry between Dr. Jafari and Mr. Chalabi appeared to pose significant risks for the Shiite alliance. If Mr. Chalabi fails to persuade the alliance to back him, he could take some of his followers with him and join a coalition of Kurds and secular Shiites, led by the current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to form a government.


Mr. Chalabi would have to persuade only a small number of Shiite candidates to leave the alliance in order to deprive it of the seats necessary to form a government. According to unofficial vote tallies, the Shiite alliance's 140 assembly seats are just 2 over a majority.


Mr. Chalabi declined to comment in detail, but said he would convene a meeting of disaffected alliance members shortly.


"It is down to myself and Jafari," he said.


For all the maneuvering, though, Dr. Jafari seemed to have the edge.


While Mr. Chalabi has ranked among the least popular of Iraqi leaders in public opinion polls, Dr. Jafari has ranked the highest. In addition, Dr. Jafari leads an organization known for its deep roots in Iraq, and for the repression it suffered under Saddam Hussein, while Mr. Chalabi is known for leading an organization, the Iraqi National Congress, that was composed mostly of exiles.


Mr. Chalabi also carries substantial political baggage. Though many Iraqis credit him with persuading the Americans to topple Mr. Hussein, he is widely known here for his conviction on bank fraud charges associated with the collapse of the Petra Bank in Jordan.


Dr. Jafari, who was a member of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council, took a low profile during many of the significant events of the last 22 months, including the anti-insurgent offensives in Najaf and Falluja. He is thought to have Islamist leanings, but in a recent interview he said he favored the formula now in the country's interim constitution, which designates Islam as one of many and not the only source of legislation.


A general practitioner, Dr. Jafari left Iraq in 1980 as Mr. Hussein, in the wake of the Iranian revolution, began to arrest and kill members of the Dawa Party. After spending much of the 1980's in Iran, he moved to London, where he remained until the collapse of the Hussein government in April 2003.


The deal between Dawa and Sciri was reached Tuesday, when Sciri's leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi from contention for the prime minister's job. According to a knowledgeable Iraqi source, Mr. Hakim got much in return: Dawa's leaders agreed that Sciri candidates would be appointed vice president as well as the heads of two ministries.


Aides to Dr. Jafari were confident that Sciri's agreement would clear the way for him to become prime minister.


"It's done," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the party. "We're going to have a formal announcement in a couple of days."


But several obstacles still stood between Dr. Jafari and the prime minister's office. While Sciri leaders said they had agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi's name from contention, they said they had not yet agreed to back Dr. Jafari. They said they would do that when he agreed to a set of unspecified conditions that were to be spelled out Wednesday.


Furthermore, the agreement between the Shiite leaders was made without the agreement of the Kurdish leadership, which will likely play a major role in the formation of the future government. Under the interim constitution, any group that forms a government is likely to need the agreement of two-thirds of the national assembly's 275 members. Because the Kurds won as much as 25 percent of the assembly seats, their assent will almost certainly be needed to form a new government.


Barham Salih, a senior Kurdish leader who is now a deputy prime minister, said the Kurds would insist on a number of conditions before they agreed to support any government. Among those were the requirement of a secular state, as well as a federal system that granted the Kurdish people significant powers of self-rule in their homeland in northern Iraq. It is not clear whether Dr. Jafari would agree to those conditions.


"We are not going to personalize the issue," Mr. Salih said. "We have a set of clear policy criteria that will determine how we vote."


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