An Initial Look at the Registrants for Provincial Election
Iraq’s Higher Electoral Commission released the names (Arabic link) of the politicians and political entities that had registered by the deadline that it set, and hence are eligible to compete in the provincial elections set for October.
The operative word to describe the list is ‘fragmented’.
Here are some quick notes:
Individuals: there are 224 registered candidates who are running individually out of a total number of 504 registrants. This colorful bunch includes a famous TV personality Fayiq al-Iqabi (no. 810) and a crazy ex-interim head of the Public Integrity Commission, Mousa Faraj. There are only five women running under their own names.
‘Independents’: SEVENTY-FOUR of the registered political entities use a variation of the word ‘independent’ in their names; I guess they are trying to draw a distinction between themselves and more established political parties, especially the ones that have been in power and hadn’t offered much to the voter.
What is also significant is that most of these ‘independent’ entities are selling themselves as non-sectarian and are, for the most part, using Iraqi patriotism to draw attention to their agendas.
Sunni (Tribal): Again, plenty of fragmentation; it seems that Sunni tribal associations were unable to coalesce around a single anti-Islamic Party platform. By my count, the Sunni tribal vote in Anbar is split FOUR ways (at least): Ahmad Abu Risha (no. 468), Ali al-Suleiman (no. 513), Amer al-Suleiman (no. 529), and Hamid al-Hayess (no. 638). The Sunni tribal vote in Nineveh Province, particularly among the Shammar tribe, would (at minimum) be split two ways among Fawwaz al-Jarba (no. 386) and Ajil al-Yawer (no. 867).
Sunni (non-Tribal): At least EIGHT contenders, with the Consensus bloc breaking apart: Jamal Karbouli (former [?] head of the Red Crescent, no. 469), Salman al-Jumeili (MP, former Consensus spokesman, no. 470), Khalaf Al-Alayan (no. 322), Adnan al-Duleimi (no. 270), Tariq al-Hashemi (Islamic Party, no. 262), Thamir al-Tamimi (Abu Azzam of ‘Sons of Iraq’ fame, no. 771), Salam al-Zoba’i (former Deputy Prime Minister, no. 766), and Hachim al-Hassani (formerly of the Islamic Party, no. 390).
Shia (Islamist): the “Da’awa” franchise is available under EIGHT disparate entities, NINE if one includes Adnan al-Zurfi (no. 66) who is also running but his group is not using the Da’awa tag as the others do. Take your pick: Nouri al-Maliki (Prime Minister, no. 483), the Abdel-Karim ‘Anizi faction (no. 321), Mazin Makiya (no. 527), the Izzeddin Salim faction (no. 52), Ibrahim al-Ja’afari (former Prime Minister, no. 562), and three more (no.s 706, 416, 312).
Even the much smaller Islamic Action Party is running as three fragments, no.s 5, 568, 224. One also has the option of voting for two registrants using the name ‘Hezbollah’.
Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim’s ISCI (no. 512) is a bit of a surprise too, for Hadi al-Ameri is running as ‘Badr’ (no. 8), while Adel Abdel-Mahdi (no. 756) is also striking out with his own band. In a similar manner, the imam of the Khallani Mosque, Mohammad al-Haideri, who resigned from SCIRI in 2005, has formed his own group under the name of the ‘Independent Solidarity Coalition’ (no. 518).
The pro-Sadrist Risaliyoon group, which ran in the last parliamentary elections and garnered three seats, is registered under no. 439. I couldn’t identify any other registrant as ‘Sadrist’ or pro-‘Sadrist’. The Fadhila Party bears the no. 550.
Bureaucrats such as Hussein Shahrestani (Minister of Oil, no. 508), Ibrahim Bahr al-‘Uloom (former Minister of Oil, no. 53), Ali al-Dabbagh (Government Spokesman, no. 250) and their posses are likewise in the running.
Shia (Tribal): there are dozens of contenders, but the ones that I’d watch are Hussein al-Shaalan (no. 149), Reshash al-Imareh (no. 515), and Nadim al-Sultan (no. 94).
‘Seculars’: Interestingly, Ayad Allawi is back to using his old party’s name Al-Wifaq (no. 82). There’s also Hdayb al-Haj Mahmoud (no. 84), Mithal Alusi (no. 566), the Iraqi Communist Party (no. 17), Sebham Mullah Chyad (no. 622), Ahmad Chalabi (no. 85), Abid Faysal al-Sahlani (no. 776), Tawfiq al-Yaseri (no. 634), and at least a dozen more. Ex-CIA assets such as Saad Janabi (no. 43) and Nehru Kesnezani (no. 75) are making another go of it, even though all that spook money didn’t get either much traction in the last election.
Adnan al-Janabi, a former Allawi ally who was not allowed to run in the last elections by the De-Ba’athification Commission because he had been a recipient of Saddam’s oil coupons is even listed twice for good measure.
Ethnicities: there are ELEVEN entities claiming to represent Turkumans, THREE representing the Arabs of Kirkuk, TEN Christian groups (including one for the Syriac minority), THREE scrambling for the Fayli vote, and one for the Shabaks.
Now, I don’t know how all these groups are actually going to sort things out like nationwide coalitions or province-by-province alliances come October because the Iraqi parliament has yet to pass the provincial electoral law! But it is doubtful to me that any serious coalitions—especially ones along the sectarian lines that we witnessed in the 2005 elections—can be formed in the current political atmosphere.
What’s more, apart from Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh, sectarian or ethnic coalitions would be redundant. Why would Sunnis need to run on a single slate in Anbar? Why would Shias do the same in Basra? Most of the October races are going to be intra-sectarian or intra-ethnic; most sectarian-based political parties and entities will be out to prove a point about their individual popular appeal within their own communities, while ‘patriotic’ and ‘secular’ candidates and entities will attempt to show a broader base.
If anything, the fault lines will break along Da’awa (Maliki) vs. Da’awa (Ja’afari), Hakim vs. Sadr, Sunni tribes vs. Islamic Party, and even Talabani vs. Barzani in Kirkuk.
However, the key dynamic to watch is Islamist vs. Secular, with the seculars making some inroads.
With all that I know about Iraq, I still find this stuff confusing. However, there’s an exhilaration over the ‘newness’ of if all. These are real elections, with unknown answers that only the ballot boxes will reveal.
Quick word on SOFA: it’s all hot air that’s being sensationalized for election purposes, both American and Iraqi. There’s a negotiation going on, and it’s natural to try to game the media in order to get the upper hand. But casting it as an imminent collapse of U.S.-Iraqi bilateral relations is plain ol’ silly.