Iraq's religious Shiite parties are challenging an attempt by supporters of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to slide him into the post-election leadership as a consensus candidate.
In the absence of any breakdown of Sunday's national voting, List 169, the religious coalition blessed by the spiritual leader of all Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, claimed a "sweeping victory".
One of its most likely challengers to Dr Allawi's claim to the top post, Husain Shahristani, branded the Allawi interim Government as the most corrupt in Iraq's history.
Dr Shahristani, a nuclear scientist, was jailed by Saddam Hussein for 10 years and is one of four List 169 contenders for the prime ministership.
Dr Shahristani said: "It is very well known that corruption is very widespread from the police to the judicial system. Iraq has never known the level of corruption prevailing now. A lot of public funds have gone missing under the Coalition Provisional Authority and even now."
The scientist used Dr Allawi's Defence Minister, Hazem al-Shaalan, as a proxy target, resurrecting questions about an unexplained airlift of a reported $US300 million ($A387 million) from Baghdad to Beirut in the weeks before the election. The Defence Minister said it was a weapons deal. After it was reported by The New York Times, some cash was returned.
Dr Shahristani said: "The fact that the Minister of Defence, on the day there were four suicide bombings in the capital, spends all his day at the airport trying to take a few hundred million dollars in cash out of the country before the elections doesn't speak very well for the Government's performance."
The head of List 169, Abdul Azziz Hakim, said that his team had won more than 50 per cent of the vote but denied that it planned to install clerics in the new government. His comments aimed to assuage anxiety in the displaced Sunni minority, which enjoyed power under Saddam and supports the insurgency.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars declared the elections to be flawed and announced that its 3000 affiliated mosques would not take part in writing a new constitution. "We will consider the new government - if all the parties participating in the political process agree on it - as a transitional government with limited powers," he said.
But the biggest Sunni political party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, has intimated that it will join the process.
- For the first time in nearly a decade, the US Marine Corps missed its monthly recruiting goal in January. Officials blamed it on the war in Iraq.
- Militants ambushed and killed 12 Iraqi soldiers near the northern oil city of Kirkuk
Copyright © 2005 The Age Company Ltd