"It's very difficult for the political forces in power to accept that the Iraqiya collation led by Ayad Allawi could possibly reap such results in the elections," said Haider al Musawi, a political analyst at an independent, Baghdad-based research institute. "In their minds, the majority of the population of Iraq is Shiite and would, therefore, vote for Shiite parties. In spite of all the nationalist, nonsectarian propaganda, they took that for granted and therefore are shocked that quite a large number of Shiites must have voted for the secular Iraqiya coalition, too."
Fork in Iraq's road: Shiite-led democracy or pan-Arab authoritarianism?
A full tally of votes from the elections is due on Friday. Iraq's interior minister Thursday called for a delay because of the high potential for unrest, but Iraq's election commission refused to postpone the results.
In recent days, Maliki associates have taken to the streets in small protests and warned of a possible Shiite uprising if the votes don't end up in Maliki's favor. The prime minister himself demanded a manual vote recount in a sternly worded communiqué that warned of violence and invoked his status as commander-in-chief.
With the long-awaited results comes a new round in a battle that's far larger than Maliki and Allawi, two politicians with strongman tendencies and broad popular bases. Baghdad's political and clerical elites are casting the race as a fight for whether Iraq will continue down the thorny path of Shiite-led democracy or revert to the secular, pan-Arab authoritarian rule of the ancien regime. It's political hyperbole of the kind that leads to street violence in Iraq.