Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Al-Hadba Goes Regionalist?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 14:17

In an interesting statement, Usama al-Nujayfi, brother of Athil al-Nujayfi who did spectacularly well as leader for the local Hadba list in Mosul in the last provincial elections, has announced that a nationalist alliance linked to the Hadba will contest the next parliamentary elections in some but not all of Iraq’s governorates. The targeted constituencies are Nineveh, Salahaddin, Anbar, Baghdad, Wasit, Diyala and Kirkuk.

Some will of course construe this as an attempt to maximise a (Sunni) sectarian vote within a nationalist framework, similar to what many Shiite Islamist parties did in other parts of Iraq in the last local elections (where many ran everywhere except Anbar where there are very few Shiites). However, the inclusion of Shiite-majority Wasit (and the omission of places with important Sunni minorities like Babel and Basra) could suggest that regional identity may also play a role (i.e. in a wider sense than in the local elections where the Hadba was also regionalist, but more narrowly focused on the Nineveh governorate). An even clearer indication of this approach was recently highlighted by the Tawafuq politician Nur al-Din al-Hayali, whose National United Trend has stated it will fight the elections as an independent entity in three governorates – Baghdad, Salahaddin and Nineveh – thus leaving out what the Americans have always thought of as “Sunni heartland” (Anbar) and instead focusing on a zone from Baghdad to Mosul where Arab nationalism traditionally has been strong.

Hayali’s alliance is interesting also because in addition to running as a local list in three governorates, it intends to join with others elsewhere – with reports that negotiations are ongoing with the cluster of nationalist forces that have yet to agree on formal cooperation: Iraqiyya, al-Hiwar al-Watani, the Independent National Trend (Mashhadani/Jabiri), the Iraqi Constitutional Party (Bulani) and possibly splinter elements of Tawafuq. These new signals from Iraq’s north-eastern region are interesting as a possible indicator of the shape of alliances to come in the next parliamentary elections, with a potential for hybrids involving both nationalism-oriented local/regional lists and nationwide parties. Recently, the significance of such alliances became painfully clear to the Iraqi Constitutional Party which bravely tried to take the Iraqi nationalist approach to its logical conclusion by fielding candidates in Kurdistan’s local elections (it was also one of the few to run lists in all the 14 governorates in the local elections last January). It was the only non-Kurdish party to do so, and it received less than half a percent of the vote.

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