- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) — The front-runner in Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections on Wednesday called for the formation of an impartial, internationally supervised caretaker government to prevent the country from sliding into violence and counter what he says are efforts to change the vote results.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite whose cross-sectarian coalition narrowly won the most votes in the March 7 polling, said that disqualifying candidates and holding recounts is an attempt to “steal the will of the Iraqi people.”

The call comes after an Iraqi court charged with investigating election-related complaints disqualified one of his candidates over alleged ties to the former regime. Election officials confirmed that another nine winning candidates, including seven from Mr. Allawi’s list and one from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc, were being investigated.

The court’s ruling came at the urging of a commission charged with investigating politicians’ connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Hamdiya al-Hussaini of the election commission told the Associated Press that the court is expected to decide on the fate of the nine others by Monday.

Disqualifying Mr. Allawi’s candidates would favor Mr. al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc, which came in second, losing out to Mr. Allawi’s coalition by just two seats.

If the seven Iraqiya candidates and their votes are thrown out, it could change the seat count in the new 325-member parliament and potentially hand Mr. al-Maliki’s coalition the lead. That would enrage the country’s disenchanted minority Sunnis, who had thrown their weight behind Mr. Allawi’s candidacy.

“Certainly what is going on is a theft of the Iraqi will and democracy, jeopardizing the safety of the country,” Mr. Allawi told Iraq’s al-Sharqiya channel. “We will call for the forming of a new interim government.”

Mr. Allawi called on international organizations such as the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to help establish the impartial interim government.

Iraqiya’s narrow victory was immediately assailed by Mr. al-Maliki. An elections court granted a State of Law request to recount the vote in Baghdad, which is expected to begin later this week. Mr. al-Maliki’s alliance also was boosted by the Shiite-dominated Accountability and Justice Commission’s vetting panel, which had barred hundreds of candidates for alleged ties to Saddam’s Baath Party in the run-up to the election. Many of the disqualified candidates are believed to be Sunni.

Mr. Allawi said the commission is “illegal and illegitimate” and “works with no constitutional cover.”

Late Tuesday, Iraqiya held an urgent meeting and decided to send a letter to the head of the judiciary asking him to “step in to protect the Iraqi judiciary system from the political pressures.”

The fact that many of the commission’s recommendations have been approved and that the only recount granted so far was requested by Mr. al-Maliki has opened up the country’s judiciary to accusations of bias and partiality to the prime minister’s government.

Mr. Allawi warned that further delays in forming a new government only give “terrorists” the opportunity to kill more people in the country.

The party statement also said this was Iraqiya’s “final warning.” Allawi spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Budeiri said Iraqiya would consider quitting the political process or demand a repeat elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday warned that any challenges to the election results should be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency to preserve people’s faith in the system.

“For challenges to be credible and legitimate they must also be transparent and must accord with the laws and mechanisms established for the conduct of the elections,” she said in a statement. “Transparency and due process are essential to protecting the integrity of the process and preserving the confidence of the Iraqi people in their democratic system.

Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

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