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Iraq’s Allawi Steps Up Bid to Lure Al-Maliki’s Backers

Former Iraqi premier Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiyah bloc stepped up efforts to lure deputies from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s alliance, in a bid to form the largest group of seats in parliament and secure the right to form a new government, almost eight months after elections.

Iraqiyah is negotiating with the Shiite Muslim Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Fadheela Party, the Kurdistan Parties Coalition and the Sunni Muslim Iraqi Unity Bloc, Allawi’s spokeswoman, Maysoon al-Damluji, said late yesterday. Talks “have reached advanced stages and their outcome will be announced at the appropriate time,” she said.

Allawi, a Shiite who won support from secular and Sunni voters in the March elections, has won the backing of 130 members of the 325-seat assembly, compared with 132 for al-Maliki’s Shiite-led State of Law group, al-Sumaria television reported. Iraqiyah nominated Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, an ISCI member, as its premiership candidate.

The power struggle between the two blocs has delayed the formation of a government, with neither able to command a parliamentary majority. The vacuum coincided with a surge in violence, prompting regional leaders including Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to join the U.S. in calling for the rapid creation of an administration able to unify the country.

State of Law’s merger with other Shiite groups to form the National Alliance in June was a setback to Allawi’s efforts to create a bloc larger than al-Maliki’s. The alliance this month nominated al-Maliki as its candidate for the premiership over objections of some of its lawmakers from groups such as ISCI.

Discussions With Kurds

The Kurdistan Parties Coalition, which includes President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change Party, holds about 53 seats in the assembly. Its members have said they are in talks with both Allawi and al-Maliki.

“Right now, Maliki and Allawi are battling for Kurdish support,” said Reidar Visser, an Iraq analyst at the Oslo-based Norwegian Institute for International Affairs. “Whoever gets it should be in a position to form a government reasonably fast.”

Al-Damluji didn’t specify the number of lawmakers who are backing Allawi in her statement yesterday, and she wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by telephone today.

“There is no time limit, except that there will be new elections in 2015,” Visser said, referring to the formation of the next government. “In the case of a protracted stalemate, the new parliament could choose a speaker and work with the existing government, or dissolve itself in order to have fresh elections.”

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