The prime minister though remains personally popular for having taken on Shiite militias – sending in the Iraqi Army to drive them out from Basra and other cities that had fallen under their control. His support declines, however, in the largely Sunni West and in the north, where many Iraqis feel they’ve been neglected by the central government.
Allawi, a secular Shiite, who was installed as transitional prime minister by the US in 2003, heads a broader-based coalition that is also seen as less sectarian.
The major Kurdish parties are expected to play a key role in building or breaking any coalition.
“None of [the major parties] will have enough votes to form the government so definitely the Kurds can play a very important role,” Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government, told the Monitor in a recent interview. “For us in the Kurdistan regions, we are not going to decide until after the elections on how to be part of the alliances because there are many important issues we should negotiate.”
He said that included the commitment of any potential coalition parties to solving the issue of Kirkuk, the disputed oil-rich city which Kurds claim as their historic capital.