Early results are coming in from Iraq’s election, and though Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition appears to have won a plurality, the race remains exceedingly close. The Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties, has already called the vote counting into question, with leader Ahmed Chalabi demanding candidates be given a full accounting of the votes before they are publicly announced. Western observers are worried that could cause a dangerous delay.
Violence surged following Iraq’s 2005 election, as politicians struggled to form a government, and some fear another lengthy squabble could have similar effects. “It is a very close race,” one Western official told the New York Times. “Whatever the end results, we know it will be a fierce struggle to form a government.” Many candidates campaigned with coalitions only as matters of convenience, meaning horsetrading could prolong the process.