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Iraqis greet new government with feelings of relief, betrayal

Many who voted for the Iraqiya coalition thought Iyad Allawi won March elections. Now, with him and his coalition sidelined, they feel cheated – and warn of renewed sectarian violence.

Iraqi Kurdish residents celebrate after the re-election of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani in Sulaimaniya, northeast of Baghdad, Nov. 11.


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Iraqis woke up to a new government Friday but the relief of breaking a record political deadlock was tempered by many Sunni voters' sense of betrayal and more widespread worry that the coalition is too fragile to last.

After a five-hour session of parliament Thursday, lawmakers eventually sealed the deal hammered out by political leaders in closed-door negotiations, electing a speaker and president and paving the way for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a coalition government.

It had been more than eight months since Iraqis went to the polls in the first post-war elections in a truly sovereign Iraq. The voters, many of them saying they were tired of the empty promises of religious candidates, gave former prime minister Iyad Allawi secular Iraqiya coalition two more seats than Mr. Maliki’s Shiite bloc.

But neither won nearly enough seats to form a majority, prompting ballot recounts, accusations of fraud, and months in which political leaders flew off to other countries but didn’t meet amongst themselves.

Thursday’s parliament session marked one of the very few occasions in the past eight months on which Maliki and Allawi sat side by side. But halfway through the session Allawi and dozens of his members walked out over three Iraqiya candidates being barred from taking their seats because of alleged Baathist ties. Maliki and other leaders had promised in prior negotiations to work towards lifting the ban but it wasn't raised in Thursday's parliamentary session.


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