: Well, The Times woke up on the wrong side of the bed in Iraq this morning:

The razor-thin margin apparently captured by the Shiite alliance here in election results announced Sunday seems almost certain to enshrine a weak government that will be unable to push through sweeping changes, like granting Islam a central role in the new Iraqi state.

The verdict handed down by Iraqi voters in the Jan. 30 election appeared to be a divided one, with the Shiite political alliance, backed by the clerical leadership in Najaf, opposed in nearly equal measure by an array of mostly secular minority parties.

According to Iraqi leaders here, the fractured mandate almost certainly heralds a long round of negotiating, in which the Shiite alliance will have to strike deals with parties run by the Kurds and others, most of which are secular and broadly opposed to an enhanced role for Islam or an overbearing Shiite government.

Or you could call that a check and balance, not unlike most parliamentary democracies in the world and even not unlike having a president of one party and a congress of another here. When the occupation began, I seem to remember doomsayers saying that the people were sure to elect an Iranian-style hardline religoius government. Now they elected a government that will have to find a moderate middle ground — and that’s doom.