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Iraq still does not have a new government, but does finally have official election results. A court has certified the results of the parliamentary elections that took place in March, nearly three months ago. The long delay has raised anxiety among Iraqis, and there continues to be violence there. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports on what's ahead.
PETER KENYON: Judging by his recent comments, you might not realize that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki finished second in the voting to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Maliki has confidently predicted that his State Of Law party will retain the premiership, and he said that Allawi's Iraqiya bloc is wasting its time in claiming the first right to form a government.
Maliki's confidence was boosted by State Of Law's announcement that it will join with the Shiite Iraqi National Alliance. Such a merger would be within four seats of controlling parliament and the government. Analysts say that merger, yet to be finalized, is being pushed hard by Iran.
But some Iraqis worry about what they see as an undercurrent of hostility among key leaders as the process drags on. Meysoun al-Damluji, a spokesperson for Iraqiya party, voices a view heard increasingly outside Maliki's circle of supporters, that after four years in charge, Maliki has grown too accustomed to power.
Ms. MEYSOUN AL-DAMLUJI (Spokesperson, Iraqiya Party): Personally, I think we face the danger of creating a new dictatorship in Iraq. I don't think Maliki has shown any willingness to leave his position. It'll be no different from the Baath Party.
KENYON: Maliki's supporters dismiss such talk as irrelevant sniping from political rivals. And yet echoes of the same discontent can be heard among Shiite politicians, as well. The most outspoken are the followers of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. They're still bitter over the major crackdown Maliki ordered against Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army.
Lawmaker Baha al-Araji, a leading member of the Sadr movement, says in his time in power, Maliki showed that he simply can't be trusted.
Mr. BAHA AL-ARAJI (Member of Sadr movement): (Through translator) It was a very hard experience, not just for the Sadr movement, but the entire Iraq nation. So we don't trust Maliki's promises. Our leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, appeared on Al Jazeera, and he's usually not negative in describing people, but he called Maliki a liar.
KENYON: Waiting in the wings, meanwhile, are the Kurds. Analysts say, on paper, they have a natural affinity for Allawi, a secular Shiite. But there is bad blood between the Kurds and some of the leading Sunni politicians in Allawi's bloc.
Veteran Kurdish lawmaker Abdul Khaliq Zangana says whoever forms the next government must make room for strong Kurdish representation, probably including another term for Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani.
Mr. ABDUL KHALIQ ZANGANA (Lawmaker): (Through translator) We're not saying pick Talabani because he's Kurdish, but because he is qualified, and also because the Kurds have a right to a share of power.
KENYON: Iraqi politicians say among the current frontrunners for the prime minister's post, Maliki seems to have the most options, if not the most support. But the coming talks are also likely to include entirely new formulations, possibly with all the well-known names stepping aside for a compromise candidate, which is how Maliki himself emerged in 2005.
The question on many anxious Iraqi minds is how long will the process take, and how many more people will be killed or wounded in post-election violence before Iraq's latest power struggle is resolved.
PETER KENYON, NPR News, Baghdad.
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