Straw: Iraq on the way to a democratic future

Iraq takes first step on democratic path
Iraq takes first step on democratic path

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that the results of the Iraqi elections have set Iraqi firmly on a democratic path.

Provisional results of the January 30 elections show that the Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) backed by Iraq's leading cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, won 48 per cent of the vote.

A coalition of the two main Kurdish parties won 25 per cent, and the secular ticket, led by interim prime minister Iyad Allawi came in third after gaining just 13.6 per cent of the vote.

Sunnis, who had dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein, only voted in small numbers after a campaign of intimidation by insurgents and calls for a boycott of the polls.

However, Shias have taken pains to stress that the new government and the constitution will share power with ethnic and religious minorities.

"We have a responsibility now to work together for the sake of the people," said Ibrahim al-Jaafari, outgoing vice-president and a candidate for prime minister.

"They have made this magnificent gesture and we should all take it seriously and make it work."

Talks now begin on setting up a coalition government and appointed a prime minister and president. The new 272-member assembly is charged with writing a new constitution for Iraq, which will then be ratified by a referendum in October and should lead to a general election by December.

Mr Straw said that he congratulated all of those elected, adding: "The Iraqi people have taken another important step on the way to a secure and democratic future.

"As Kofi Annan said in London last week, it is crucial for the future of Iraq that the full diversity of Iraqi society is represented in the political and constitutional process. Prime Minister Allawi and many other key Iraqi political figures continue to emphasise this point.

"I call upon the international community to rally behind the Transitional Iraqi Government and renew its support for the Iraqi people in their difficult task ahead."