The initial results of Iraq’s 30 January election show a triumph for the Shia alliance. It won 48% of the vote, an extraordinary result for a formation limited to 60% of the electorate.
The Kurdish alliance got 26%, so 74% of the votes were more or less straight communal headcount. The party of Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the Interim Government, got 14%, a low figure considering its ample funds.
Very few Sunni Arabs voted. "Iraqis", the party of the Sunni president of the Interim Government, Ghazi al-Yawar, got 1.7% of the vote (probably five seats). Adnan Pachachi’s more secular Sunni list, and the Iraqi Islamic Party (Muslim Brotherhood), which used to be in the Interim Government, and had candidates on the voting papers though it had announced its withdrawal from the election, both failed to top the 0.36% threshhold to gain a member in the Assembly.
Two of the minor parties which got seats are Shia parties close to the main alliance. The Popular Union list constructed by the Communist Party of Iraq got 0.8% of the vote (two seats).
Now the assembly has to elect a presidential council of three members, each of whom needs a two-thirds majority, and the council elects a prime minister. The necessary haggling will mean that the Shia alliance makes concessions to the Kurds about Islamic law.
Whether it produces a competent government capable of reconstructing an independent Iraqi state, conciliating the Sunnis, and not nurturing explosive disappointment among the Shias, we have yet to see. One test will be the negotiations now due on new labour laws for Iraq.