Iraq’s second parliamentary elections since the US-led invasion in 2003 is a triumph for democracy, but the results threaten to plunge
the country into a leadership vacuum.

It still remains uncertain who will lead the government after the elections on 7 March.

If Iraq is to monetise its enormous hydrocarbon reserves, it will need a strong government

Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki appear to be the two most likely candidates for the premiership, but forming a workable coalition to run government could take as long as five months to achieve.

As Iraq’s political leaders negotiated power-sharing agreements, Baghdad was rocked by seven bombings on 5 April, leaving more than 35 people dead and 140 wounded. If such attacks are to be stopped, Iraq needs stable government to build upon the security gains already achieved. Baghdad also needs to increase revenues to pay for the economic recovery and infrastructure development.

If Iraq is to monetise its enormous hydrocarbon reserves, it will need a strong government that can push through the crucial pieces of legislation, which have been waiting to be approved for more than four years. So far, international investors have shown faith in Iraq’s potential, signing several billion dollars worth of agreements. The country has overtaken Qatar in terms of planned projects, with a pipeline of schemes worth $230bn.

Just how many of these schemes are realised will depend on the new government. The prospect of a weak administration, more concerned with politicking than governing could herald a return to sectarian violence that will only dent the fragile confidence.

After almost three decades under Saddam Hussain, the holding of elections has been hailed as a great victory. The victory has been achieved at a great cost, but the cost will be even greater if Iraq doest not find a strong leader capable of driving forward its reconstruction.