Final results from the January 30th ballot showed the United Iraqi Alliance (Shia) won more than 4 million votes, (roughly 48% of the votes cast). This does not give them a parliamentary majority, but makes them by far the biggest party in the new government.
With a turnout of 58% of those registered (8.5 million out of 14 million registered voters) the U.S and U.K Governments hailed this as a victory for democracy, and their invasion. However, their preferred option (Ayad Allawi's pro-western party who spent a huge £2.14m on publicity) received only 14% of the vote (1.2 million). The Kurdish Alliance (who want to set up an independent Kurdish state) polled 26% of the vote (2.2 million). The two main Sunni representatives barely received any votes (President Ghazi al-Yawer's Party- 2% and a list headed by Adnan Pachachi - 0.1%). This translated to a miserable 2% of eligible voters in Anbar province (which includes Falluja and Ramadi) although they managed as high as 29% in mainly Sunni Salahadin.
The Kurds voted in overwhelming numbers for independence from Iraq.
The Shia (in the majority but historically suppressed by Iraqi leaders - even when the UK was in charge) turned out in large numbers to take control of Government.
The Sunnis (who have always had the power) hardly voted at all (and many support the insurgency).
All the parties campaigned on ending "the occupation".
The assembly will meet to choose a president and two deputies, who will then choose a prime minister and cabinet (whose appointment must be approved by a majority in the assembly). The assembly will also draw up a draft constitution by August, which will be tested by a referendum later in the year, and another general election in December.
President George Bush noted "I congratulate the Iraqi people for defying terrorist threats and setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom," while Anas Altikriti (spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain) described the elections as a "farce" and said they would do little to improve the situation of ordinary Iraqis.
The main contenders for the top job of PM are
1. Ibrahim al-Jaafari - a moderate physician who seems to be the most popular politician after the grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
2. Adel Abdul Mahdi - an economist who fought the British in the 1920s, he joined the Ba'ath party in the 1960s (in support of Arab nationalism and socialist economics) but left in 1964 when members like Saddam moved up the ranks by killing opponents. Until the occupation, he lived in Iran and was a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (a group of exiles who campaigned for Saddam's over throw and an Islamic-guided government).
3. Ahmad Chalabi - who led the group giving Washington inaccurate reports of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and has been convicted for embezzlement, Mr Chalabi is said to be one of Iraq's most unpopular politicians, but he has powerful friends. The fact that he recently fell out with the U.S has boosted his credibility.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (credited as the architect of the Shia coalition) pronounced a fatwa on members of the clergy taking up political posts, but will remain hugely influential.
The winning United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) pledges -
* a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq
* a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers facilities to citizens to build homes
* to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects
In other words, they reject the radical free-market policies imposed by Paul Bremer (i.e. the U.S) and agreed with the International Monetary Fund.
However, the U.S and U.K. have no need to fear the nationalisation of Iraq's oil - Al-Mahdi of the UIA supports the U.S position. He advised the American Enterprise Institute that he would "restructure and privatise [Iraq's] state-owned enterprises", and reassured Washington he would create a new oil law which was "very promising to the American investors". Al-Mahdi oversaw the signing of deals with Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco just before the elections, and negotiated the deal with the IMF.
In direct opposition to the stated policy of his party on troop withdrawal, al-Mahdi stated "When the Americans go will depend on when our own forces are ready and on how the resistance responds after the elections." However, he does support the imposition of Sharia law. So, as in Iran, the Ayatollas get control of the Government.
It is interesting to note that Condolezza Rice described Iran as "totalitarian" because in recent elections candidates at one end of the spectrum were off the ballot and religious parties controlled the Government. So, what does that make Iraq (where the Sunni did not involve themselves in the election, and the winning party intends ruling according to Sharia Law) or Saudia Arabia (who recently held elections in which women were not allowed to vote, and powerful political posts were omitted from the ballot)?
This is not the first time the U.S has congratulated itself on delivering "democracy" on the basis of one poorly monitored election.
John Negroponte (who as the US Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980's was involved in the covert funding of the Contras to remove the Sandanista Government and covered up human rights abuses carried out by CIA-trained death squads) took over from Bremner as US Ambassador to Iraq in 2004. He described the elections in El Salvador in 1982 as a glorious day for freedom, while the media rambled on at length about the population defying the terrorists to vote - sound familiar?
The Salvadoran elections were artificially imposed by the U.S. in the middle of an internal war. However, not only did they fail to bring democracy, they actually inflamed the conflict and prolonged the bloodshed. The war lasted for ten more years and claimed the lives of an estimated 35,000 people. Most of those who died were civilians, and were killed by the "democratically elected" government.
Peace finally came in 1992 when "insurgents" invaded the Salvadoran capital, and the American-trained Salvadoran army murdered six Jesuit priests causing the U.N to step in. The U.N. achieved peace by including the insurgents in a coalition with the government forces - something the U.S. had spent billions of dollars and thousands of Salvadoran lives trying to prevent.
Of course, Iraq and El Salvador are not the same. The situation is worse in Iraq. El Salvador had a pre-existing competitive democratic political tradition and well-organized and established political parties while Iraq had a dictatorship and economic sanctions. The mess that US and UK politicians are creating in Iraq right now could easily take more than a decade to be resolved and will undoubtedly continue to rack up a terrible cost in human life long after the media and the troops move along to the next victim. Remember Afghanistan?