Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Official Coalition List Is Out

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 9 December 2009 2:41

The deadline for registering coalitions for the 2010 parliamentary elections expired in mid-November. But even though all the parties had submitted their lists by then, the Iraqi elections commission, the IHEC, kept postponing the publication of the lists pending the final passage of the election law.  However, now the official list has been released.

The list contains relatively few surprises. There are only 12 coalitions, of which not more than around 6 seem truly competitive: Kurdistan, Tawafuq, the Iraqi National Alliance, State of Law, Unity of Iraq and Iraqiyya. For these, in turn, the line-up is more or less as expected, even though a few entities remained in doubt about their loyalties until the very end. Eventually, it was Maliki (and not Unity of Iraq) who got the amir of the powerful Rabia tribe of the Tigris on his side; the Iraqi National Alliance, for its part, has managed to enlist the support of the Shaykhi community of Basra. Also, as has been widely reported, the Independent Nationalist Trend of Mahmud al-Mashhadani and Nadim al-Jabiri opted to join Unity of Iraq alongside Wathab Shakir (who at one point was reported as having signed up for the independent Ayad Jamal al-Din); the same list also suffered a defection by Nehro Abd al-Karim who joined Khalaf al-Ulyan and Fadil al-Maliki (a Shiite mujtahid) to form a smaller coalition named the National Unity Alliance. Finally, Iraqiyya has now been confirmed in the shape that everyone has been talking about for weeks: To the Allawi-Mutlak core have been added powerful politicians like Tariq al-Hashimi, Rafi al-Eisawi and Usama al-Nujayfi, plus Tawfiq al-Abbadi, a businessman from Basra, Iskandar Watut from the mid-Euphrates region and Abd al-Karim al-Muhammadawi (the “Lord of the Marshes”, no longer calling himself Hizbollah of Iraq). A more formal launch of this expanded list is still expected to take place.

Of these, in turn, only the Kurdistan list is perfectly forthright and clear about its programme. All the others play the now predictable message that they represent all the elements of the Iraqi people from north to south and generally favour a vague programme of “national unity” and “anti-sectarianism”, often backed up by a symbolic parade of tribal chiefs from all parts of the country and religious leaders typically representing even the smallest of these components, such as Chaldean priests or Mandaeans. However, if one probes further, it makes sense to distinguish also between these remaining five coalitions in a number of ways. For example, in addition to the Kurds, both Tawafuq and the Iraqi National Alliance often mix their political message with a focus on ethno-religious sub-identities (Sunni and Shiite respectively); the three others seem to be more determined to avoid this. Similarly, both the Kurds and the National Iraqi Alliance highlight decentralisation as a virtue, and the latter has recently recruited both the pro-federal Turkmeneli party (literally “the land of the Turkmens”; unclear how that will play out with the Kurds!) as well as Fawaz al-Jarba, a Sunni tribal leader of the Shammar who has reportedly expressed an interest in decentralisation more recently (he was also part of the old UIA in 2005 but had been negotiating with Maliki). De-baathification is particularly important for State of Law and the National Iraqi Alliance.

In terms of control of the state apparatus, the State of Law is in a unique position, but the Unity of Iraq Alliance also has some influence through the interior ministry. The National Iraq alliance used to be well-entrenched within the system, but after its latest quarrels with Maliki it has sometimes found itself in an unusual alliance with Iraqiyya and the remnants of Tawafuq that increasingly have lost some of the influence which they enjoyed previously when they participated more fully in government. Often overlooked is the fact that the elections commission (IHEC) in practice is owned by the Kurds, the Shiite Islamists and Tawafuq, who effectively control 8 out of 9 commissioners. Iraqiyya is thought to have influence over one member of the commission whereas Unity of Iraq – a relative newcomer – has no representatives in the commission at all.

This all makes for a rather complex picture as Iraq moves forward towards the elections, now set for 7 March 2010 according to the latest reports from Baghdad (already changed from 6 March, which was reported earlier today). For voters, the fear must be that post-election coalition-forming becomes so important that few parties are willing to be clear about issues and prospective partners, simply out of fear from alienating anyone. For the United States, the new timeline could be a course of concern, since an election date in March means summer will come closer as a new government is being formed, and Ramadan next year falls in the late summer (around 10 August–10 September), thereby effectively prolonging the period of standstill in Iraqi politics.

25 Responses to “The Official Coalition List Is Out”

  1. Reidar,
    How about the Arab Gathering and the Independent Arab Block? These parties have sizeable following and a number of members in the current parliament.

  2. I have a small correction to make, your phonetic translation of the Arabic وتوت is incorrect, as it is pronounced as (Witwit) and not (Watut), this is of course due to lack of harakat here.

    Thank you for your excellent reporting.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, please note that the post covers coalitions only, not single entities. I cannot see those parties having joined any greater coalitions; although, as I am sure you know, the Independent Arab Trend is technically listed as State of Law because Abbad Mutlak al-Jibburi joined Maliki (but got into trouble with the rest of his party for doing so). Abdallah Iskandar is also with Maliki. There is an Iraqi Arab Gathering on the Iraqiyya ticket (headed by Abd al-Karim Ali Abtan); I think they are Arab nationalists from the Diyala area who may be in sympathy with the two groups you mention on some issues. Anyway, of course, the fact that these parties did not form a coalition does not necessarily mean that they are not competitive. I guess they may well take seats in the Diyala-Kirkuk-Salahaddin-Nineveh belt?

    Abbas, many thanks for the correction, much appreciated.

  4. Brent said

    Hi Reidar, a quick question for you and anyone else. After the election results are known, how does the coalition forming work? Is it structured in a certain way eg the coalition with the highest percentage forms with others or is it just the parties that can get together the most seats the fastest that will form a govt? Thanks in advance.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Parliament will meet and elect a president from the available candidates. This time it is going to be less complicated than in 2005, because the president is elected on his own, i.e. no single list with two vice-presidents, and ultimately also no need for a two-thirds majority (i.e. in this case the reference to a two-thirds majority is of a purely aspirational character and it can be ignored if no one gets two thirds). Then it is the job of the president to charge the biggest bloc in parliament with forming a government. Thus what constitutes the biggest bloc is something that the president decides and therefore something that will likely relate to what sort of backing he relied on to get elected.

  6. Brent said

    Thanks again Reidar, who do you think will have the largest bloc in the next parliament based on what you know of these coalitons and there popularity? Sorry to put you on the spot but you are imo the most experienced,knowledgeable,accurate and impartial person on the net to ask!!

  7. Wladimir said

    So, this analysis is incorrect?

    “But the lesson of the provincial election in January this year is that Iraqis very largely vote along communal lines, though they often change which party within their community they vote for.”

  8. Sam Parker said

    A few questions:

    1) What’s going on with al-Hadba? They are not part of any coalition that I can see but are still registered on the IHEC list of individual entities contesting these elections, which leaves open the possibility that they may run solo. Since Osama Nujayfi is running with Allawi, I would guess that the preponderance of al-Hadba support would end up there. As you mention, that list is looking very strong with all those heavy-hitting Sunnis added at the last minute. Also, what happened to the name “Iraqi National Front”? Why are they still listed as Iraqiya? My guess is that they didn’t get the new entity formed in time so they had to piggyback the existing name.

    2) Can you elaborate on what you know about the apparent Da’wa Tandhim al-Iraq split? The main DTI branch is still registered with State of Law, but then the long-time frontman for DTI (and presumed Iranian agent) Abd al-Karim al-‘Anizi now leads a party called Da’wa Tandhim al-Dakhil that is registered with the INA. Another mysterious development in what is easily the most mysterious significant Iraqi political party. I also notice Shirwan al-Wa’ili on Maliki’s list, and he at least used to be in that DTI orbit and has the presumed Iranian tie.

    3) Here are the prominent Sunnis I count with Maliki: Hajem al-Hassani (124), Ali Hatem (61), Abd al-Mutlak al-Juburi (204), Ali Baban (144). Am I missing anyone important? That’s not too bad even as is. Who is Khaled Sa’di Yawar ‘Awad al-Dulaymi (44)? Seems like a very Sunni name.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Sam, it is not something I follow in great detail but my sense is that they are increasingly referring to the ”Iraqiyyun” list of Usama al-Nujayfi and limiting the Hadba name to the more local context. With regard to Allawi-Mutlak, I think the new haraka of the two represents an attempt at a party merger whereas Iraqiyya is a coalition name as before. Allawi and Mutlak emphasised the distinction between the new movement and greater (and at that point still projected) coalition at their launch in late October. As for Tanzim al-Iraq, the split that started in late July appeared to be an attempt by Anazi to win control of the whole before joining Hakim, but ended up as him defecting from the others and then signing up with the Shiite-led alliance. Last time I checked he was also in control of the Masar television (which used to be a Tanzim al-Iraq asset). There is a bit more about the July split halfway down this article: I think that in general, those who are sceptical about Iranian influences in the Tanzim are more sceptical about Anazi than Waili… As for Sunnis in State of Law, I wouldn’t want to try to sound very authoritative about it since it is not something I follow in great detail. The only other person I could think of would be Abdallah Iskandar but I think he is part of the Jibburi faction that you refer to. He is often quite prominent in the media.

    Wladimir, that assessment about Jan 2009 is perhaps more correct than is often realised, if perhaps a little exaggerated. Except for Baghdad and Basra, Maliki performed poorly in Sunni-majority areas. Iraqiyya did quite well both north and south of Baghdad, albeit not in the far south.

    Brent, thanks for that, I don’t want to pretend that I can come up with good predictions at this point, we really need to know more about what sort of political atmosphere will dominate the next few months. As explained earlier, the transformation towards a more cross-sectarian kind of politics in Iraq is highly tentative, and if bombs start going off during Muharram and minarets fall down inexplicably then we could be looking at something very different.

  10. Salah said

    Iskandar Watut from the mid-Euphrates region

    Left to right, Army Brig. Gen. Jerry Lang, 34th ID dep. comm. gen. for support; Sheik Khodaer Abdlhosaen and Dep. Gov. Iskander Witwit of Iraq’s Babil province discuss how the market will help the region excel in agriculture.

    Iskander Jawad Witwit

    Former Deputy Governor: Iskander Witwit

  11. bb said

    “Thus what constitutes the biggest bloc is something that the president decides and therefore something that will likely relate to what sort of backing he relied on to get elected.”

    ????? The president can choose whomever he likes? ie is not obliged by the constitution to choose the coalition party that wins the greatest number of seats?

  12. Reidar Visser said

    BB, no I just wanted to stress if for example the situation is unclear after the elections result then there will probably be some kind of post-election coalition forming where new super-alliances can be created, and in that case the president can probably choose whether to give the job of forming the new govt to the largest party or the largest bloc. It only has to be a “kutla” which could be a bloc or alliance.

  13. Wladimir said

    I wonder what kind of guarantees the Americans gave the Kurds. There are some details of it in Kurdish newspapers and al-Hayat, but not sure to believe it.
    A high-level political sources told Al-Hayat that the U.S. administration promised to ensure the Kurds weight in the Iraqi equation, regardless of the size of parliamentary representation. The source said that Barazani complained about the deliberate intention to limit the Kurds’ role in Baghdad, by withdrawing President post from the Kurds giving it to the Sunnis. The American promised to keep the ethnic and sectarian balance in the Iraqi equation.

    (If the Arabic-English translation is correct off course).

  14. David William Lazar said

    Does anyone know if the Assyrian, Al-Rafidain List will be entering the election on its own or as part of a coalition with others?

    Thank you

  15. Reidar Visser said

    David, I don’t follow the Christian parties closely but the only Christian coalition list I can find is the Ishtar slate, where Rafidayn does not appear. So I suppose they may be running separately.

    Wladimir, there are plenty of rumours of the kind you refer to, but I wonder what can the Americans really promise to the Kurds? Stay forever? Manipulate the constitutional review committee?? I think those rumours may exaggerate the degree of American leverage right now, although I am sure Biden will have tried to offer general assurances about good offices in a more general way.

  16. Sam Parker said

    Wladimir, the KRG has reproduced the official White House statement about the elections law on its website. It is a model of balance and careful wording. (Although Reidar may be able to engage in a similar exegesis to the one he performed on the “cryptic” Hill-Odierno statement during the elections law debate…:))

    The statement “reaffirms the U.S.’s respect” for the constitution including Article 140 (in general terms that fall easily within the “referendum on a negotiated settlement” understanding), but also goes out of its way in the same sentence to support Article 142, the provision for constitutional reform. On the census, the U.S. “remains ready to help.”

    This is very far from the optimistic interpretations Kurdish leaders have given to the press about American guarantees on 140 and the census. I have no way of knowing what was agreed to behind the scenes, but I seriously doubt the Americans committed themselves to anything new.

  17. Wladimir said

    This would mean that the other Iraqi parties could change article 140. Right?

  18. Wladimir said

    “Sebastien Vanderschaeve
    Yes: there was threats made to sideline Kurdistan if the Kurd representatives in Baghdad didn’t vote the electoral law. The law has been voted not to disturb the American plans. Goran mps present in Baghdad to take part to the negotiations reported the threats made against the Kurds by the US officials.
    The day after the law was adopted… See More the US released a text asserting a census would be held in 2010, and their support to article 140. BUT they asserted as well their respect of article 142: the one describing how to amend the constitution.
    With a reduced representation in the new assembly it looks now unlikely the article 140 will ever be implemented. Tuesday and wednesday Kemal Kerkuki and Kosrat Rasul went to Baghdad to try to secure guarantees and build alliances, but it looks quite desperate”

    I didn’t know Change had MPS in Baghdad yet, but the last points is interesting.

  19. Reidar Visser said

    No, I thought this statement was a lot better. As already alluded to by others, it says the USG supports article 140 and it also supports the constitutional revision – which could end up throwing out 140! I assume that is diplomatic. Only thing that surprised me was the focus on Kirkuk when Hill for two months has insisted its settlement has nothing to do with the election law. So why bring it up again at all in relation to the passage of the election law?

  20. Wladimir said
    Carnegie about the ‘Sunna’ in Iraq. I bet they mean Sunni.

  21. Comment #18:
    “US released a text asserting a census would be held in 2010”
    It is curious how talk of a general census creeps in with US support for Articles 140 and its revision? No doubt the timing and form of the census have a lot to do with the will of the United States, so is this a threat or a promise? And if the census was done in a shoddy way by the Government of Iraq then is it an opportunity for the KRG to reject or lose data it didn’t like similar to what happened to Karkuk’s?

    The success of the census in Iraq is the responsibility of the U.S. Shoddy census means confrontations not only among Iraqis but also between the U.S. and interferring parties. A full mandate by the UN to run the census and the elections is also an opportunity to get international cooperation, consensus and closure on Iraq.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, seems the Americans are being a little artful when it comes to the census, and in this case there actually exists some kind of theoretical link to the election law: Ostensibly, the census is supposed to be a tool for the elections in 2013 and 2014!

    “Following the 2010 parliamentary elections, Iraq will hold elections in 2013 and 2014 in accordance with its constitution and laws. A current and thorough census will help facilitate the conduct of those future elections, and the United States remains ready to help the Government of Iraq conduct an accurate census next year as one element in support of a stable Iraq with a government that is fair and accountable to the Iraqi people.”

    The 2010 timeline was created by the ministry of planning itself, I think, when they decided to postpone the census – originally scheduled by law for October this year – to next year. I suppose that reference in the US statement is intended as another reassurance to the Kurds since they will no doubt read it like you read it: In the context of Kirkuk. But your other argument is valid too, i.e. since the Americans ostensibly attach importance to the census in relation to the 2013 local elections, then a thorough census in 2012 would be better than a hasty one in 2010… The Kurds would not agree with that though.

    I am wondering what Washington is realistically hoping to achieve before it starts drawing down next summer. If they are lucky the new government be formed just before summer, at best. A new constitutional committee will only start its work in the autumn, and any implementation of 140 (if it is not removed during the revision) will be further down the road. The census is scheduled for October 2010 if I remember correctly.

  23. Reidar,
    Thank you for the details. I find American political logic humorous sometimes: Why push the census back? Why not now if it really “helps facilitate the conduct of (the)…elections”? OK, I don’t want to go too far down that slippery slope!
    Also, I would like to say that I don’t mean to offend Iraqi census technocrats such as Ali Baban and Mehdi Al Allaq who must be frustrated with the delays. I sympathize with them but I think they don’t have the clout to prevent politicizing the process, for that I believe only a mandate from the UN Security Council will do.

  24. Ahmed Shames said

    I think the Kurds are concerened that the Arabs may keep delaying the census until US troops are out. Once that happens, anything is possible, and Kurdish measures introduced to Kirkuk risk being reversed by Arab heavy handed approach. They want to make sure that a sensus takes place while US troops are still in the country. Americans are here until 2011, but it seems that the Kurds want to allow enough time for possbile delays.

    Also, does anyone know why Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s “Independent Gathering for Iraq’s Future” is not part of the Iraqi National Alliance?

  25. Reidar Visser said

    Ahmed, haven’t heard much about the Abd al-Mahdi list, although it was mentioned early on as part of the Iraqi National Alliance. I guess it could mean one of two things: Either he silently dropped the whole project and will participate through ISCI, or he intends to field a separate list. My hunch is that the former is more probable.

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