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Iraq's Political Uncertainty Poses Threats to Regional Security

Iraq's parliamentary election in May was supposed to determine the next government. However, marred by a low voter turnout and charges of fraud, the vote is now subject to a recount of ballots.

Mazin Al-Eshaiker, a former adviser to the prime minister of Iraq, said that it is the ballots stuffed in the boxes that were rigged, and simply recounting them will not change the current result.

It is also impossible to have people vote again -- there were only around 17 percent of Iraqis participated in this election, and redoing it in December means the number might drop down to 5 percent.

"All roads are blocked," Eshaiker said. "We don't have a light at the end of the tunnel unless there is some sort of salvation government or a national unity government."

Preliminary results show that the bloc led by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a longtime foe of the United States, finished first. On the other hand, Iraq's current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a US ally, was third.

Despite disputed political standpoints, the two leaders have now decided to work with each other. Abadi said in a live televised address that he is ready to cooperate in forming "the strongest government for Iraq, free of corruption."

Sadr is now making coalitions with everyone, said Ahmed Rushidi, a senior policy adviser to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament.

In addition to Abadi, he has also talked to the Fatah Alliance, a Shiite bloc that belongs to the Popular Mobilization Forces, as well as anti-sectarian party al-Wataniya and even some Sunni blocs.

"He wants at the end to make a major cross-ethnic bloc in Iraq that has a national space to choose the prime minister," Rushidi said.

Analysts said Sadr alone won't have enough seats in parliament to form a government and determine the next prime minister. Right now, even with the alliance of Abadi, Sadr still needs 64 seats in the parliament in order to successfully form a new government.

Majeed Gly, a journalist and political analyst with the Rudaw Media Network, said that the Kurdish parties are waiting for the recount result to react accordingly, and the inclusion of the Kurds in the process of forming a government is requested by both Iran and the United States.

However, which dominant Kurdish parties Sadr would eventually choose to work with, still remains to be seen.

As for what is widely known, Sadr has been acting counter to the US interests during the past. The current result poses a big question for the United States to answer, according to Jonathan Broder, an award-winning journalist who spent two decades as a correspondent in the Middle East and Asia.

There are thousands of US troops currently in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi forces. Both the United States and Abadi want them to stay, but Sadr might not share the same values.

"The Americans are counting on the fact that all parties would not like to see a return of dodge of ISIS (ISIL)," Broder said. "Therefore, the presence of the Americans is needed. There is some sort of possibilities to work around this. They could have an official representing the American presence."

There are disputes on both sides of the Sadr-Abadi coalition when it comes to the United States. If they fail to reach an agreement, a power vacuum might appear in Iraq, and that could be exploited by ISIL or other similar groups. In addition to a step-up attacks by ISIL, there is also a rivalry between the two blocs of the Shia.

"They are stockpiling weapons in the mosques," Gly said. "There are reports of ISIL checkpoints re-emerging, despite the fact that it is not in the headlines."

The country is no doubt currently in a political limbo. It is still waiting for the results of a manual recount of the votes from last month's election, and the process will take about two weeks.

However, there might not be a solution to the problem unless international players get involved.

"There must be a solution outside the boundaries of Iraq," Eshaiker said. "The current state of events does not lead me to believe that we are going to get a democratic outcome of the election."


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