It could be a case of good for democracy, bad for Iraq if analysts monitoring the outcome of the recent election in Iraq are right in thinking that the very close race between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi promises months of strife and violence down the line. –KA


With 163 seats out of the 325 in parliament needed for a majority, it could take months to win over smaller parties, causing tension which could trigger a return to all-out violence.

Analysts and diplomats fear sectarian groups will seek to assert their interests in a leadership vacuum.

The count has been slowed by an elaborate process designed to eliminate fraud in which each vote is counted by two separate election officers, whose tallies have to agree before they are entered into a computer.

Mr Maliki was ahead in the early stages, as counting proceeded swiftly in provinces in the southern Shia heartland in which he competes for dominance with the Islamists of the Iraqi National Alliance.

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