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The results of the Iraqi elections are surprisingly close - with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's current prime minister, neck-and-neck with Iyad Allawi, the country's former prime minister.

Allawi and his secular bloc are likely to gain four times as many seats as he had after the last elections in 2005.

Some attribute this to a strong desire by the Iraqis to bring down artificial partitions and go back to their unified nation.

Others say the results indicate a poor performance of Maliki's government over the last four years.

Have Iraqis finally spoken out against the long-running divisions? Could Iraq see months of deadlock that will do little to boost the country's faith in its politicians and young democracy? Or will things be resolved swiftly and neatly?

We are joined by Saad al-Muttal-ibi, a candidate for al-Maliki's State of Law coalition and an adviser to the National Security Council, Alaa Makki, a Sunni member of parliament and a candidate for Allawi's al-Iraqiya coalition, and Kenneth Katzman, a Gulf affairs analyst with the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

This episode of Inside Story airs from Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 1730GMT and 2230GMT, with repeats the next day at 0430GMT and 1030GMT.

Source: Al Jazeera