Beaten party clings to power at all costs

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki's party lost the Iraqi election, but a day after the results were announced it became clear he would fight to hold on to his post - even before the outcome was declared.

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki's party lost the Iraqi election, but a day after the results were announced it became clear he would fight to hold on to his post - even before the outcome was declared.

On Thursday, a day before the results were announced, he quietly persuaded the Iraqi supreme court to issue a ruling that potentially allows him to choose the new government instead of awarding that right to the winner of the election, the former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi.

On another front, officials in charge of purging the government of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party said on Saturday they expected to disqualify 50 candidates, many of them members of Allawi's Iraqiya Party. That could strip Allawi of his narrow plurality, 91 parliamentary seats compared with 89 for al-Maliki's State of Law party.

And if that does not work, al-Maliki is clamouring for a recount, and he said he planned to file a legal appeal even though the UN, the elections commission and international observers have declared the election valid. Ultimately, the supreme federal court, which is nominally independent but has proved friendly to al-Maliki in the past, will decide the recount issue.

"They're still going to take advantage of all the means at their disposal to eke out a victory," said Gary Grappo, a political officer in the US embassy in Baghdad, referring to al-Maliki and his supporters. - New York Times

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