Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The IHEC Publishes the Names of 6,172 Approved Candidates

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 19:44

It is a little unclear why this is not all over the newswires, but at any rate: The Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) today released the list of 6,172 approved candidates for the 7 March elections. This supposedly includes all candidates whose documents were found to be in good order and who are not subject to de-Baathification.

Until now, the Iraqi National Alliance (which enjoys a “special relationship” with the IHEC) has been the sole entity to publish all its candidate lists. The newly released material obviously includes thousands of names that are relatively unknown, but at least some characteristics of the competing top candidates in various provinces can be sketched out at this point. Starting in the south, in Basra the big battle will likely be between the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) and State of Law (SOL). As has emerged earlier, INA has put a Sadrist plus the ex-Iraqiyya representative Wail Abd al-Latif at the top of their list alongside some important local figures like Amir al-Fayiz of the Shaykhi community. Maliki’s top candidate in Basra is Safa al-Din al-Safi, a long-time minister (most recently acting planning minister); Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani, an influential figure in the oil and gas committee is relatively far down the list at number eleven, Khayrallah al-Basri, previously with Iraqiyya, is number eight. Elsewhere in the “deep south”, INA already has revealed a list of well-known figures in the second-biggest prize to be won – Dhi Qar – including Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Bahaa al-Aaraji and ex-governor Alwan. SOL has now placed an independent candidate from a local religious family, Muhammad Mahdi al-Nasiri, at top of their list, with minister of state Shirwan al-Waili third. In the symbolically important Najaf, INA has Nassar al-Rubayi, a Sadrist, on top whereas Maliki has put Khalid Atiyya as his number one candidate in Qadisiyya.

Across the Shiite-majority areas south of Baghdad, the big question will be to what extent more secular and nationalist parties such as Iraqiyya and Unity of Iraq will be able to eat into the Shiite Islamist vote and go beyond the 10% threshold that has seemed pretty constant in many areas. A cursory glance at the list could suggest the secular parties could have needed a few more top candidates to radically change that picture, although incumbency and fame are of course not necessarily the best determinants of electoral success in today’s Iraq (or so we may hope). It is noteworthy that some of the few famous “southern” names in the secular coalitions do not seem to have put themselves forward as candidates proper. For example, The Lord of the Marshes (Muhammadawi) does not appear to be on the Iraqiyya lists anywhere in the three southernmost governorates. Abbas al-Mamuri is running as top candidate for Unity of Iraq in Babel, and Jamal Batikh for Iraqiyya in Wasit, but where is Ayad Jamal al-Din, the leader of the Ahrar party and a natural Dhi Qar candidate? Another notable omission in this category is of course Yusuf al-Habubi, the big sensation of the last local elections in Karbala. An ex-Baathist who did well on the basis of a good reputation and an ability to get things done, his performance in religious Karbala was seen as a sign of pragmatism among the electorate and it had been expected that he would run again for national office in the 7 March elections. But even though his “Flags of Iraq” alliance technically became part of SOL, his name is apparently nowhere on these lists – possibly another bad sign in terms of a potential shift back to a more sectarian political climate compared with 2009. Similarly, the Iraqiyya contingent from Basra in the current parliament has bifurcated, with Basri now as an SOL candidate and Wail Abd al-Latif having joined forces with lots of old enemies in INA.

The truly big battle is going to be Baghdad, with 68 seats and some 1,800 candidates, almost a third of the whole list. This is where all the major celebrities congregate. INA has already presented a Bagdhad list comprising two potential prime ministerial candidates (Jaafari and Bayan Jabr Solagh); they will now get serious competition from SOL (Maliki on top, followed by Haydar al-Abbadi, Husayn al-Shahristani and the son of the Shiite Islamist icon Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr as number five) as well as from Iraqiyya (Ayad Allawi is number one, other top candidates include Hassan al-Allawi, Ahmad Radi, Tariq al-Hashemi and Aliya Nusayf). Unity of Iraq has also put most of its top candidates in Baghdad, including Jawad al-Bulani on top, followed by Mahmud al-Mashhadani, Hashim al-Habubi, Wathab Shakir and Nadim al-Jabiri.

North of Baghdad, in Anbar, Iraqiyya has Rafi al-Isawi as their number one candidate. But it may seem as if Ahmad Abu Risha, of Unity of Iraq, has opted to not run for office here and instead has chosen to stay on the sidelines? SOL has the lesser known Abu Risha (Saad) as their number one here, and INA is fronted by Hamid al-Hayis; neither is expected to attract enormous numbers of voters. Further east, in Salahaddin, Maliki is running with his sports minister as top candidate. With several other Shiites following on the next places it does seem that much like INA he is trying to maximise the Shiite minority vote in Salahaddin instead of making a deliberate effort to come across as more “national” in this governorate. For its part, the Sunni-oriented Tawafuq has placed its party chairman on top of the list here and interestingly has also included its controversial (ex) governor here, as number three. Iraqiyya has Falah al-Naqib, a former minister of interior under Ayad Allawi, as its number three candidate in Salahaddin. Up in Kirkuk, Iraqiyya is looking strong with Muhammad Ali Tamim as first candidate. (He is from the Hiwar front of Salih al-Mutlak and an outspoken leader of the nationalist current that is seeking to retain the disputed governorate under central government control.) SOL has Abdallah Iskandar as their number one in Kirkuk, to some extent perhaps an attempt at reaching out to the Iraqi nationalist segment (but weren’t Abbad Mutlak al-Jibburi and Hajim al-Hasani supposed to be here too instead of in Baghdad?)  Finally, in Mosul, unsurprisingly, it is Usama al-Nujayfi on top of the Iraqiyya list. SOL is running with the independent, Sunni Kurdish minister of planning Ali Ghalib Ali Baban as number one; like in Kirkuk Maliki in other words comes across as slightly more “national” in orientation than INA.

The lingering question is of course what, if anything, this release says about the ongoing de-Baathification process. Many had expected that no lists would be published until the appeals process had been exhausted. But the strange thing is that from a sample of 22 banned Iraqiyya candidates from Baghdad, at least 4 have been reinstated on this new list of 6,172 candidates. Nonetheless, since most of the top candidates whose cases are currently being reviewed by the appeals court have not been reinstated on this list (this includes Salih al-Mutlak), and since there has so far not been any major outcry by Iraqi political parties this evening, we must assume that the appeals process is still ongoing and that the limited number of reinstatements may relate to technicalities. Hopefully, the picture will soon clarify, because at the end of the day the general atmosphere of the election debate is probably going to mean much more for the overall outcome than the individual characteristics of these 6,000 plus candidates.

16 Responses to “The IHEC Publishes the Names of 6,172 Approved Candidates”

  1. bb said

    6172 candidates for 323 seats?

    Extraordinary. Just extraordinary. This will be playing on Al Jazeera right through the arab world.

    The Baghdad line up is very promising from my perspective, because it is important step in democracy-maturing for the alternative prime ministers to be clearly defined in the contest. So we have Jafaari, Allawi and Maliki. Very good. Now for debates!

    Finally with 6000plus candidates it can be seen that the deBaath issue is likely to fade away rapidly as the campaign gets going, especially if Mutlak gets reinstated.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, I wish I could share your optimism for the “democracy” you keep referring to, but I can’t.

    First, on a general note, I don’t think there is any strong correlation between the quality of a democracy and the numbers of entities and candidates that take part. Indeed, when it comes to a high number of parties there seems to be an inverse relationship, with fragmentation often being the opposite of political maturation. On that score, Iraq today is looking pretty much like Romania in the 1990s.

    As for the ongoing process in Iraq, I have got two caveats. Firstly, there is still no proper election campaign where real issues are being discussed. Hopefully there will be some kind of closure to the de-Baathification process this week, but don’t hold your breath.

    Secondly, the whole political atmosphere in Iraq right now seems fundamentally antithetical to the spirit of democracy. Candidates simply don’t know who will be targeted next by the de-Baathification authorities and what sort of logic may be used to marginalise them (that is, if they are lucky enough to be dealt with through the comparatively civil process of the judicial system). Why? Because the prosecutors change the rules all the time. Most of all this reminds me of things I have read about McCarthyism in the US in the 1950s.

  3. Bb, can you please explain how it “can be seen” that a 6,000 candidate campaign will likely fade away. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any PolSci background but I fail to see a connection. If anything, with such an increase in political competition I would have thought the rhetoric – and the associated violence – should ramp up considerably around this very issue. After all, what better way to rig a vote than to exclude viable competitors from the process even before the race begins?

  4. That should, of course, have read: can you please explain how it “can be seen” that a 6,000 candidate campaign the de-Baathification issue will likely fade away.

    But while I’m here I have another question for you: is there a successful democratic model that you know of in which such mass exclusions have been a part of the process?

  5. bb said

    Reidar, the Romania reference is very interesting, in that in the ’90s Romania was also a fledgling democracy coming out of years of brutal dictatorship.

    You say there was a high number of parties/fragmentation at the time. But Romania’s electoral system is party list proportional representation just like Iraq, so that is not surprising.

    Also a major difference in the upheavals in the early days is that it was the GOVT that was being accused of being up of former communists and members of secret services. In the case of Iraq it is the direct oppposite. The government parties are entrenched by virtue of their 60% demographic majority and it is one segment of the opposition (representing about 20%) that is being challenged.

    Of course, after the early upheavals in the ’90s the system settled down and there have been three peaceful democratic changes of government in Romania since then. Twenty years after the overthrow of the dictator Romania is now a member of the EU. It can be anticipated that 20 years after the foundation of a modern democracy – 2025 – that Iraq too will be an entrenched part of the democratic world community. Although the caveat has to be what happens in Iran.

    Steve Connors – I think you are an American? As such you are probably not familiar with the PR electoral system which encourages smaller parties, unlike the US winner-take-all elections for congress.

    What a 6000plus for 323 seats in a country coming off three or 4 decades of totalitarian dictatorship indicates is that Iraqis feel they have a high degree of “ownership” over the system. It’s a huge increase even on the 4000plus standing for 1400 provincial seats last year.

    It’s not just the representative democratic electoral system of course, or the constitutional limits on executive power in favour of the legislature, it is also the free media and open political debate; Iraqi ministers and politicians now explaining themselves at regular press conferences and the direct telecasts of the seemingly often rambunctious Iraqi parliament that seems to be appealing to the Iraqis.

  6. bb said

    Steve – because the 6000 plus candidates will all have their own issues and de Baathification is not likely to be in the upper order for most of them.

    In your second question – just don’t have the time to do the research but I would imagine Germany after WWW2 and eastern bloc countries after 1990. Maybe Cambodia?

    Please be clear – am not suggesting that mass exclusions are a good thing. But would make the point they are understandable in countries where sizable sections of the population consider themselves to have been oppressed and persecuted by the security forces of a totalitarian state. If one reads the Iraq constitution again after several years distance the palpable fear of the Ba’aath and central government that permeates it is quite striking.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, in this case the comparison was with respect to the party system not the transition process more generally. The point is that in a maturing PR democracy, the number of parties will soon go down as voters discover the problem of wasted votes and party discipline evolves. We see no such signs in Iraq yet.

    With respect to what you say about the constitution, I think you are spot on in describing it as “filled with fear” of the idea of central government (I would suggest “paranoid”), but remember that the Iraqi people had hardly read the document they voted on in October 2005 and last year even Nuri al-Maliki began criticising the process back then as flawed and “chaotic”. As we have seen during the past couple of years, there is no real appetite for federalism in Iraq outside Kurdistan, for example. And, with respect to the Baathists, as said so many times before, through the special stipulations for the presidency council (presidential candidates are not allowed to have been Baathists in the 1993-2003 period) even the constitution adopted in 2005 implicitly envisages their participation at most other levels of government, including as parliamentarians.

  8. bb said

    “The point is that in a maturing PR democracy, the number of parties will soon go down as voters discover the problem of wasted votes and party discipline evolves. We see no such signs in Iraq yet.”

    Give ’em a chance! They’re only 5 years into this and for 3 of them were battling a raging insurgency plus out of control militias.

    Also the parties can only learn by experience.

    Re the constitution – yes, when I reread it recently it occured to me that it explained why the shia parties supported those federalism clauses at the time.

  9. According to Duverger’s law proportioal representation (PR) tend to produce multiple party system (rather than two major parties). PR helps sectarianism more than winner-take-all electoral systems but if the process works then it can even change the electoral system. What I don’t understand is the political logic behind pushing PR with no valid census to support proportionality.
    There is talk about postponing the elections by the Iraqi Presidential Council. I don’t know what a postponement may do to the US drawback timeline. While a timeline may be a good idea in a US presidential elections, it plays into the opponent’s interest when the time is reached. A UN run census and elections allows a new timeline to be set by the international community and supports a clean start for democracy in Iraq.

  10. Bb, No, I’m not American but British – which may be even worse – though I do have a rudimentary understanding of a PR system.

    I get your point about the number of candidates/parties but surely the way the myriad Iraqi parties coalesce into lists negates any benefits that accrue. Additionally, the form of PR system chosen for Iraq has proven to be highly prone to abuse by those in a position and with a will to do so. Just to take the single aspect of compensatory seats as an example: the 2005 elections returned a highly unrepresentative parliament with powerful players slotted into key government positions without having been elected.

    Your highly optimistic view of the future seems, to me, to be built upon a number of shaky foundational assumptions regarding the realities of both the pre-war and post-invasion of the situation in Iraq. Much of your analysis – despite the “realistic” tone of your posts – is clearly driven by an emotive response to the “oppressed people” propaganda that was being put about before the war by interested parties.

    The current round of exclusions – aimed at viable nationalist candidates – is no route to a mature democracy or any democracy at all.

    “Give ‘em a chance! They’re only 5 years into this and for 3 of them were battling a raging insurgency plus out of control militias.”

    There was nothing out of control about those militia’s – unless you only mean they were beyond the control of the American military.

    “Re the constitution – yes, when I reread it recently it occured to me that it explained why the shia parties supported those federalism clauses at the time.”

    Even a cursory glance at RV’s output or any knowledge of the involved Shia parties themselves made that quite plain.

  11. bb said

    Steve … Poms are marginally better than yanks but only if we win the Ashes! On that point I am very emotional!

    Look I don’t wish on you an adventure into the proportional represention maze but:

    1. It is the most transparent and difficult-to-rook-electoral system going, which is one of the reasons it is the UN preferred model for emerging democracies.

    2. coalescing of myriad parties looks on the surface to be a downside, but what PR does is virtually ensure power-sharing and consensus building from the bottom to the top, which is the other reason it is the UN preferred model.

    Compensatory seats, Steve, are allocated proportionately to each party according to the proportion of votes it received nationally. In Dec 05 the UIA (41.2% nationally received 19 of the 44 compensatory seats (43%), the Kurds (23%) 10 seats (25%) and Accord (15.1%) received 7 (15.9%).

    Every party which polled above 1.2% of the national vote received at least 1 compensatory seat.

    Compensatory seats come from the votes left over from the governorates after the quotas have been filled. My understanding is they are then pooled and allocated proportionately as above. Please don’t ask me to explain quotas! But it is not correct to say that the comp seats resulted in a highly unrepresentative parliament in Dec 05 or that the members from comp seats were not properly elected.

    On the insurgency – being a girl from the 50s and 60s and a good left winger have seen a few insurgencies in my time, barracked for most of them, and have this observation to make about Iraq: the university students never once rose up against the occupation. This indicated to me at the time that the insurgency did not have anywhere near the widespread support it needed to be successful in the long run and probably did not even have majority support among sunni arab youth.

    Regarding the militias – I mean’t that they were out of the control of the democratically elected Iraqi Government.

    To be sanctimonious for a moment, my emotions are engaged by the whole of Iraq coming out of decades of totalitarian rule and attempting to build the first genuinely representative democracy in the Arab middle east, a parliament with powers to limit the executive, a free media, robust public debate and, hopefully, an independent judiciary! There endeth the lesson!

  12. Bb, your points 1 & 2 clearly haven’t worked in Iraq. As for the compensatory seats: as can be seen from the 2005 seat allocation, a the Supreme Council and Badr Organisation were able to take nine of the UIA’s seats, improving their showing in parliament despite their poor performance at the ballot box. These parties were not at all popular among the electorate mostly owing to their long period in exile, Iranian backing and not surprisingly because they had fought against the Iraqi’s in the Iran – Iraq war.

    There hasn’t been an insurgency in Iraq. There has been a violent resistance to foreign occupation and there has been a civil war. Despite some degree of overlap at the height of the civil war these were two separate currents of violence.

    According to consistent independent polling from 2004 onwards (and including polls carried out by the US military) resistance to occupation was very popular among Iraqi’s – possibly because for many it confirmed their national historical narrative and reinforced a positive (for them) self image. Whatever the reasons, the support was there and it was widespread. One poll conducted for the University of Maryland in September 2006 returned that 92% of Sunni’s, 62% of Shi’a and 15% of Kurds supported attacks on Coalition forces. What they did not support – indeed rejected almost entirely – was political or sectarian terrorism. This was also routinely condemned by even the most hard line Islamists among the factions fighting against the occupation and there is a certain amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that some of their leadership carried out disciplinary executions against people deemed to have been involved in sectarian crimes.

    The first shots of the civil war were fired in what became Sadr City in April 2003 when a nascent Mahdi Army repelled a bid to take over the district by Badr. Throughout the summer and then on a continual basis since, Badr waged a campaign of assassination against educated, secular or nationalist Iraqi’s: doctors, lawyers, pilots and university professors to name but some of the professionals on the hit lists were being murdered in their beds or at their place of work. By the end of 2004 a brain drain was severely affecting the chances that Iraq would ever recover from the devastation of our messianic mission to bring “freedom” to that country.

    Where were those lists being compiled? In the ministries now dominated by the exiles and their militia’s. They were fully under the control of their “democratically elected” masters. When you read in the newspaper that “militiamen wearing interior ministry uniform and driving police pickup trucks” had just carried out this atrocity or that massacre, that was journalistic evasion from facing the reality of what had been enabled in Iraq.

    I think that if you were to base your analysis on these realities you may understand just how misplaced your sanctimony truly is.

  13. bb said


    1. In proportional representation elections it is common for each political party itelf to be a coalition of other, smaller parties and individuals. So it was with the UIA.

    2. In party list PR elections, the political parties coalesced into one negotiate the allocation of compensatory seats between themselves most often BEFORE the election, if not straight after. So it was with the UIA. According to Wiki, ISCI and Badr got 15 (not 9), Sadrists got 2, Virtue 1 and Independent 1.

    3. ISCI and Badr did not contest the Dec 05 election as a separate entity – therefore it can’t be said “despite their poor performance at the ballot box.” ISCI/Badr was never tested at the ballot box in Dec 05, Steve.

    resistance/insurgency. The university students never rose up against occupation/for resistence. Not once. That was my point. It was the striking differnce between Iraq and historical resistances, including, I believe, Iraqi resistance to the British way back when.

  14. bb said

    Faisal Kadri:

    “What I don’t understand is the political logic behind pushing PR with no valid census to support proportionality.”

    Presume you mean a census to determine more accurately the number of seats allocated to each governorate on the basis of 1:100,000?

    The PR electoral system does not measure demographics, of course, it only determines the proportion of votes cast for individual parties in a specific election.

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, in all haste. Generally I am struggling to find out how we (again) ended up with a relatively civil discussion about the pros and cons of PR when the real issue at hand is gross injustice committed by the dominant powers of the so-called democracy in Iraq.

    At any rate. As earlier, I am astounded by the way you seem to consider PR as a political system whereas in fact it is just a method for organising elections. You are really making things difficult for yourself, because you seem to feel an obligation to defend PR in all its myriad forms, even though its various incarnations differ quite radically from each other and are not equally suited to every context.

    In the case of Iraq, it is clear that the implementation of PR has at least three weaknesses. 1.) The compensation mechanism, which undemocratically allots a share of votes to party leaders without regard to voter preferences. 2.) The compensation seats aren’t really redistributive since most of them are doled out to the winning parties after those who did not win a single seat have been given one each (i.t. the rest of the seats are not being used systematically to enhance overall proportionality). 3) The original districting (single-constituency) was widely criticised by Iraqis and non-Iraqis for pressing the sectarian vote to a maximum by removing the cross-cutting cleavages of the governorate boundaries. In that respect, the current system with a reversion to governorate-level constituencies is an improvement on the 2005 rules. But please note: All of these are criticisms of the particular implementation of PR in Iraq rather than an attack on the concept as such!

    Finally, as always, Wikipedia is worthless unless you can access the original source and read it in its unadulterated form. If you follow the footnotes in the article you refer to, you will find that an article by yours truly is the only source when it comes to compensation seats, except that the Wiki writers misunderstood it and got their figures wrong (they also at some point erroneously concluded that SCIRI won 36 seats). SCIRI had 9 compensation seats, as described here:

    Also Steve is right in saying that SCIRI was indirectly tested in 2005 since in many cases it was candidates from other UIA parties that won seats in the governorates (i.e. in real contests) whereas SCIRI “won” no less than one third of its seats in “ghost constituencies” like Anbar where their candidates received like 100-200 votes but where Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim decided they deserved “compensation seats” from the UIA quota.

    Enough said, let’s get back to the de-Baathification story.

  16. Bb, where are you getting this student idea?

    Ireland 1916 (or any date earlier or later); what students?
    Kenyan Mau Mau; what students?
    Algeria; what students?
    France WW2; what students?
    Iraq 1920; what students?
    Fallujah, Iraq 29 April 2003, US troops open fire on a crowd of students and parents demanding the handover of their school in which troops were billeted. April 30 2003 troops once again open fire on demonstrators in Fallujah. This was not the only time in those early days that peaceful demonstrations were put down with deadly force by US troops. That, on top of the “Shock and Awe” and “Thunder Run” tactics of the invasion itself soon gave the Iraqi’s the measure of their opponent.

    There was perhaps a reason the resistance to occupation didn’t take the form you would have preferred. Instead, an underground army was constructed from scratch, first adopting hit and run tactics and later evolving into the IED war.

    I think it’s a mistake Bb to confuse the mechanics of an armed, violent uprising with civil disorder in pursuit of political concessions such as we have seen recently in Iran and the “colour” revolutions in Europe and the Caucasus. Oh yes, Chechnya; what students?

    Reider, I think the way the 2005 elections were “won” by unrepresentative parties and the de-baathification issue are closely related. In 2005 SCIRI was probably quite confident that the national election – encompassing the whole of Iraq – was a one off. They had misread the nature of the country – a common failing of long term exiles – and were coming up against the reality that there was no such entity as “the Shia”. I don’t believe they’ll be able to pull a similar coup for 2010 so the next best thing is to ensure the viable nationalist opposition is ineligible to stand for election – removing the choice. As you rightly say; this is not the behaviour of a democracy – even a young one.

    I don’t think Bb is championing the cause of proportional representation on this issue – though that’s the tool she often uses – rather, continuing to defend the original, mistaken decision to impose western democratic “values” on a society by military force. The blood and pain, it seems, is worth the end result – provided someone else sheds the blood and feels the pain.

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