- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A slate representing Assyrian and Chaldean Christians took the top spot among U.S. expatriates who cast ballots in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, narrowly defeating a Shi’ite Muslim religious bloc.

The National Rafidain List received 6,857 votes, or 26 percent, in unofficial results from last week’s balloting, Talal Ibrahim, deputy coordinator for the U.S. vote, said yesterday. The United Iraqi Alliance, a Shi’ite coalition that includes Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, received 6,780 votes, or 25 percent.

The results mark a turnaround from January, when U.S. voters also participated in elections to establish an interim Iraqi parliament.

In those elections, the Shi’ite party finished first with 32 percent of the vote and the Christian party was second with 29 percent of the vote.

The Kurdish Alliance List finished third with 4,351 votes, or 16 percent — comparable to its results back in January.

The party that made the biggest gain was a secular slate led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. His party received 3,604 votes, or 13 percent. Back in January, Mr. Allawi’s party received only 4 percent of the vote.

Another primarily Christian slate, the Al Nahrain National List, finished fifth among U.S. expatriates, with 3,261 votes, or 12 percent.

No other party among the more than 200 political entities listed on the ballot received more than 1 percent of the U.S. vote, Mr. Ibrahim said.

Election officials received 26,793 valid votes, Mr. Ibrahim said, a 10 percent increase above January, when 24,278 votes were received. Election officials added polling stations in San Diego and San Francisco to the five sites where voting took place in January: Washington, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tenn.

Many voters traveled hundreds of miles to participate in the balloting. The U.S. votes will count toward the allotment of 45 national seats in the 275-member parliament. American citizens who were born in Iraq and hold citizenship there were allowed to vote. Iraqis born in the United States who could prove their father is Iraqi were also allowed to vote.

The numbers are unofficial and subject to final verification, Mr. Ibrahim said.

James Zogby, a pollster and president of the Arab American Institute, said it is not surprising that the Shi’ite coalition lost some support since January, now that the Shi’ites have been in power and some voters have been dissatisfied with the government’s performance. He also said it is not surprising that Mr. Allawi’s secular party, a main rival of the Shi’ites, might benefit as a result.

Overall, though, Mr. Zogby said he is troubled by the U.S. balloting as a whole. Allowing U.S. citizens to vote in another country’s elections, he said, sends the message that Iraqi-Americans are not full participants in U.S. democracy.

Voting at the McLean site broke down as follows: Kurdish Alliance List, 977 votes (48 percent); United Iraqi Alliance, 464 votes (23 percent); Mr. Allawi’s party, known as the National Iraqi List, 235 votes (12 percent); Tawafoq Iraqi Front, a Sunni Muslim coalition, 83 votes (4 percent).

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