Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for April, 2010

Maliki vs Lami, Maliki/Lami vs Allawi (Updated)

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 29 April 2010 18:48

The prominent role of Tariq Harb, a legal counsel to Nuri al-Maliki, in communicating the decision of the electoral judicial panel to exclude 52 candidates and annul their votes retroactively has now been explained: A leaked letter from the panel indicates that the call for exclusion came from two different sides – the accountability and justice board headed by Ali al-Lami of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) and, in a separate complaint, the State of Law alliance (SLA) led by Nuri al-Maliki.

Equally important is the essential three-way character of the struggle, with Lami and Maliki still attacking the secularists in Iraqiyya from two different sides, and sometimes striking against each other instead. This is best illustrated in the legal reasoning behind the complaint from SLA. Their argument is that since their own candidate in Najaf, Abbud al-Eisawi, was de-Baathified shortly before the election and deprived of his votes at one point during the counting process, the same logic should apply to the 52 recently banned, i.e. the entity should lose their votes entirely. Equally important, though, is the fact that towards the end of March – one assumes by way of Iraqi magic – Eisawi was cleared by the special appeals court for de-Baathification and his votes were therefore counted in the normal fashion (he is a seat winner in Najaf and is recognised as such by IHEC). In other words, Maliki was first attacked by Lami who sought to exclude Eisawi; Maliki then got Eisawi reinstated by the appeals court but is using the Eisawi precedent (his votes do not appear on the early returns from Najaf) to exclude others who were not so lucky (and who happen to be mostly from Iraqiyya). In other words, one senses that one arm of the Iraqi system, the de-Baathification board, is still largely an INA preserve, but that Maliki is increasingly able to get the decisions he wants from the de-Baathification appeals board and the electoral judicial panel. Tragically, of course, by choosing this approach Maliki is in practice perpetuating the de-Baathification issue whose revival in 2009 was designed by Iran as a two-pronged attack against himself and  Ayad Allawi, the two most popular politicians in Iraq.

It is of course particularly ironic that this should all come at a time when for the first time there seems to be consistent calls in the Iraqi press for the most logical of all the potential alliances – Maliki and Allawi joining together. Even some Daawa politicians have referred to their merger as a “popular demand”. Perhaps what we are seeing is that once more, ploys that were devised several weeks ago catch up with their authors and create problems in the ever-changing political landscape of Iraq.

PS Meanwhile, late Thursday Iraqiyya revealed the identity of the eight additional candidates that are being chased by Lami (i.e. distinct from the 52 others, who were singled out by both Lami and Maliki). This is a bombshell in two respects. Firstly, there is news that IHEC has asked these candidates to submit their appeals, meaning the electoral judicial panel has probably sustained the demand by Lami to exclude them and their votes (this had not been expected until next week). And that is the second point: The prominence of these people, and the number of votes they represent. They are as follows:

Candidate Governorate Entity Personal vote
Falah Hasan Zaydan Nineveh Hiwar 18,954
Iskandar Witwit Babel Wifaq 11,644
Attab Jasim Nusayf Baghdad Karbuli 6,179 (female)
Jamal Batikh Wasit Wifaq 9,163
Adnan al-Jannabi Baghdad Wifaq 6,280
Muhammad al-Karbuli Anbar Karbuli 16,122
Qays Shadhar Baghdad Karbuli 3,451


Witwit and Jannabi were de-Baathified, un-Baathified and then re-Baathified in a farcical process prior to the 7 March vote. Zaydan, Witwit and Karbuli seem significant in terms of high numbers of personal votes: Updated, readjusted governorate forecast for these will follow here shortly, possibly along with Wasit.

PPS Very rough calculation indicates SLA/Maliki might be the actual loser in Babel if Witwit is excluded: The electoral divider changes from 36,642 to 35,948 and INA therefore gets 5 seats in the first allocation instead of its original four! INM loses votes but not seats; the new distribution would apparently be INA 6 (+1), INM 3 (no change), SLA 7 (-1). Of course, it is impossible to say for sure until all 50, non-winning excluded candidates have been identified by governorate and added to the equation but precisely because they are non-winning they will tend to have low personal scores and are therefore less likely to affect the seat distribution. More governorates to follow soon.

Wasit: If Batikh is excluded, Allawi could lose one seat and Maliki could gain one, although it would be very close with some 6,000 votes setting them apart. The initial allocation remains the same but the exclusion of the votes of Batikh kicks in in the second allocation, where the INM share goes down from 15 to 13% and that of SLA goes up from 45 to 47%, enabling it to catch one seat in the first round and another on the basis of the largest remainder.

Anbar: Apparently unchanged; Iraqiyya has a solid lead.

Nineveh: Apparently also unchanged but the northern governorates appear to be prone to de-Baathification and there could be retroactively-de-Baathified non-winning candidates way down on the lists that might change the numbers a little.

In sum: With every possible caveat about a very rough calculation with no time for double-checking, if these candidates are confirmed as excluded and nothing changes in the Baghdad recount, the whole process might leave INA with one additional seat, SLA unchanged and Iraqiyya could lose one (but still one seat ahead of SLA). Whereas the initial 52 exclusions sought by both Maliki and Lami seemed to be of little consequence as far as seat distribution is concerned, these 8 additional ones pursued by Lami could produce changes – that is perhaps also why they were filed after the results were made public? Note also that Lami has talked about 8 exclusions whereas only 7 individuals have been named by Iraqiyya as subject to the latest decision.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, Uncategorized | 48 Comments »

Iraqiyya Loses a Seat in Diyala, and Probably Keeps It

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 28 April 2010 18:30

Lists of the 52 de-Baathified candidates have now begun circulating and it has been confirmed that in addition to Ibrahim al-Mutlak, the replacement candidate for Salih al-Mutlak in Baghdad, another member of Iraqiyya originally from the Hiwar bloc, Raad Hamid Kazim Awwad al-Bayati, candidate number 7 in Diyala, has been subjected to the de-Baathification ruling.

With respect to Mutlak, it seems futile to try to recalculate Baghdad in a detailed way given the high number of candidates and the recount that is underway. However, Mutlak only accounts for some 5,700 of the 841,700 votes of Iraqiyya in Baghdad and their non-winning candidates there have low personal scores so it does not matter much if some of them may be among the 52 – the exclusion of Mutlak’s votes in itself seems unlikely to change the total seats for Iraqiyya . That said, of course, this is still theft of votes of the most brazen and outrageous kind.

Much the same can be said in Diyala, although here the race is closer and it may be worth trying a recalculation. The excluded candidate for Iraqiyya got 11,991 personal votes which is quite substantial, but apparently, based on a very hasty check, no more INM candidates here are among the 52. So total votes in the governorate is reduced to around 490,905 and the electoral divider is adjusted from 38,684 to around 37,761 (depending, of course on the exclusion of non-winning candidates, which however are likely to produce smaller changes). Still, however, the initial allocation is the same: 1 seat for INA, 6 for INM, 1 for SLA, 1 for KA. Then in the second allocation, the INM share of the votes is slightly reduced from 55% to 54% but still sufficient to ensure 2 seats in the second allocation, thus ending up with 8 seats as was the case before the subtraction of the votes for Raad al-Bayati.

In sum, Diyala might be an example of the de-Baathification process creating lots of ill feeling and long delays, but maybe not so much in the way of a changed parliamentary arithmetic.

PS It should be added that the way comments from Ali al-Lami have been juxtaposed to the names of the 52 candidates in some press reports may have created the impression that 8 or 9 Iraqiyya candidates are confirmed as having lost their seats. This is not the case; Lami apparently refers to a separate batch of exclusion orders submitted on top of the 52 others (which he hopes to exclude) and the outcome of this has apparently not been decided by the electoral judicial board.  Though one wonders why Mr. Lami can never seem to get his business done by way of a single dispatch.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

More Post-Election De-Baathification: Another Blow to the Idea of Democracy in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 26 April 2010 14:51

Iraq’s powerful de-Baathification committee has dealt another blow to the idea of democracy in Iraq:  After many conflicting reports over the weekend, it is becoming increasingly clear that the board’s attempt to de-Baathify 55 of the replacement candidates for other candidates that were themselves de-Baathified has been sustained by the special judicial board for the elections, along with an acceptance of its proposal to annul the personal votes for these candidates instead of transferring them to their list.

With respect to the politics of this, the de-Baathification committee, of course, is largely controlled by the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance, whereas the special judicial board for the elections is seen as leaning towards Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after its decision to allow a Baghdad recount. The main victim of these decisions, Iraqiyya, has no significant influence in either body. The Kurdish chief of the elections commission IHEC, Faraj al-Haydari, had previously expressed his distaste for the idea of annulling the votes altogether.

Because of the messy process  in which candidates were struck from the ballots right until the last minute, it is still unclear exactly which individuals are subject to the new decision. Seat-winning candidates that could be in trouble include Ibrahim al-Mutlak, the replacement candidate for Salih al-Mutlak who got some 5,400 personal votes and a seat in Baghdad. The same situation may possibly apply for candidate number two for Iraqiyya in Anbar, another Mutlak (Hamid Abid), who was not listed on most IHEC lists prior to the election and therefore may have also been a replacement candidate – in this case representing some 14,700 personal votes.

Crucially, these examples show that this is about more than candidates – it is also about voters. Here we have two examples and some 20,000 Iraqis whose votes may simply be stolen from them according to procedures that are not based on any law or even any IHEC regulation. In particular, the decision to penalise voters who used the open-list system by annulling their active use of the ballot (a passive list vote would not have been cancelled) risks putting the whole idea of democracy in disrepute in Iraq.

The de-Baathified candidates have been given one month to complain the decision – another ad hoc legal concoction by IHEC and something which firmly pushes certification of the results towards June, regardless of what happens to the Baghdad recount as well as further demands for recounts by the Kurds in some of the northern governorates (which apparently remain pending).

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, Uncategorized | 52 Comments »

Compensation Seats for Hamudi, Hasani and Jasim Muhammad Jaafar

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 22 April 2010 12:16

Until this week, the Kurdistan Alliance had been the only bloc to formally notify the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) about its nominee (Fuad Masum) for the seven compensation seats that have been allotted to the winning blocs (1 for KA; two each for Iraqiyya, State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance).

However, once the manual recount for Baghdad had been announced, State of Law (SLA) moved quickly to announce its two nominees: Hajim al-Hasani and Jasim Muhammad Jaafar. Of these two, the seat awarded to Jaafar is probably the one that most closely approximates the conventional logic of a compensation seat under a proportional-representation system. Jaafar was the number one candidate for SLA in Salahaddin. He failed to win a seat, but with some 7,000 personal votes and 33,000 entity votes, this is a classical example of a situation in which a candidate failed to reach the governorate threshold (in this case 40,700 according to IHEC calculations) but was reasonably close and might have been able to win in a different governorate with a lower electoral divider.

On the other hand, as number 6 on the Baghdad list of SLA with just 700 personal votes, Hajim al-Hasani represents a different kind of compensation-seat usage. In this case, the discretion of the party leadership has been more decisive and is more clearly at variance with the will of the electorate. Hasani is of course not only the official spokesman of SLA, he is also sometimes portrayed as the “Sunni” face of SLA and as such part of the attempts to portray the bloc as a “rainbow alliance”. However, when SLA’s disposal of the compensation seats is viewed as a whole, it is probably the Turkmen ties of both nominees that stand out. Both Jasim Muhammad Jaafar and Hajim al-Hasani have Turkmen family connections, the former a Shiite and the second reportedly of mixed Sunni–Shiite origin. But before we get lost in the sectarian genetics of this, it may be more important to consider the geographical ties of the two candidates: With links to Salahaddin and Kirkuk respectively, they could represent an attempt by Maliki to enhance his Iraqi nationalist credentials north of Baghdad. It is also noteworthy that there are already several prominent Turkmens in SLA, such as Abbas al-Bayati who won a Baghdad seat.

The most dramatic departure from conventional usage of the compensation seat in PR tradition refers to the one nominee that has been confirmed by INA so far, Humam Hamudi. With his 68 personal votes and altogether no more than 205 entity votes in Sulaymaniyya, the award of a parliamentary seat to Hamudi amounts to something of a lordship in its nonchalant contempt for the will of the electorate. Hamudi is of course a very senior ISCI official who led the work with the constitution and the constitutional revision, but like Jalal al-Din al-Saghir and Rida Jawad Taqi he chose to be placed in constituencies where there are virtually no Shiites, like the Kurdish governorates and Anbar. It is rumoured that the other INA compensation seat – which for a while seemed earmarked for a Sadrist – may in fact be given to Falih al-Fayyad of the Ibrahim al-Jaafari bloc (it will be interesting to see whether the Sadrists will go along with this). He performed a little better in Baghdad with 3,000 votes, and to some extent one might argue that this could serve as intra-list compensation for the wasted “prime ministerial” vote for Ibrahim al-Jaafari (100,000), the number one INA candidate in Baghdad. On the whole, it is probably ISCI which experiences the greatest change from 2005, when it managed to capture no less than 9 of its seats through compensatory arrangements.

Meanwhile, estimates for the recount process vary, with some talking of 10 days from the anticipated start next week. Iraqiyya has asked for close international monitoring, which seems reasonable given the contentious nature of the decision to do a recount. The Kurds have suggested that evidence of discrepancies in Baghdad should open the door for more comprehensive recounts elsewhere, whereas any party that loses out in Baghdad may be expected to appeal the result of the manual count. At any rate, we are now looking at a more likely certification date of early May.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Kirkuk and Disputed Territories, UIA dynamics | 28 Comments »

The Manual Recount in Baghdad: What Maliki Wants

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 April 2010 14:55

The announcement today that the some 2,4 million votes cast in Baghdad will be subjected to a manual recount means two things for Iraqi politics: A certain delay in the process of certification, which will now likely be pushed towards early May and possibly later (the recount probably opens the door for fresh appeals), as well as a possible delay in the process of unifying the State of Law alliance (SLA) and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) to a single Shiite bloc.

Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his SLA have been the driving force in demanding the recount. To better understand their aims it may be useful to revert to what a Maliki adviser, Ali al-Musawi, told media about their coalition visions back on 16 March, at a time when Maliki and Allawi were still neck and neck. He then said that SLA was looking to form a “political majority” with the “Kurds, parts of the Iraqi National Alliance, parts of Iraqiyya, Tawafuq and other small parties”. This would in many ways mean a return to the situation in 2007, after the defection of the Sadrists (November 2006, after the Maliki-Bush meeting) but before that of Tawafuq and Iraqiyya in the summer), though with Maliki in a relatively stronger position vis-à-vis the decentralisers among the Kurds and ISCI. It has also been suggested that the United States and Saudi Arabia would be happy with this kind of outcome, even though the ideological contradictions would still be much bigger than in a smaller, centralist Iraqiyya/SLA government, and to call it a “political majority” would be something of a euphemism.

It is of course somewhat ironic that the ruling by the election court comes just days after Maliki seemed to acknowledge defeat precisely for the vision of a “political majority” and instead for the first time began talking about the dreaded, oversized “national unity” government. As for the mathematics of all of this, the numerical margins, based on the final IHEC figures, suggest that the seventeenth INA seat in Baghdad might perhaps be the one that is most vulnerable to small changes in the figures (or, more correctly, it is the fifteenth seat of the initial allocation that is at risk, with a surplus of just about 1,000 votes). But that is probably not what Maliki is looking for: His aim is likely to win a SLA seat at the expense of an Iraqiyya seat so that he can avoid creating a bigger bloc in order to fight for the premiership. Iraqiyya, for their part, have warned about SLA putting pressure on the courts throughout and are likely to view the recount with suspicion. They still seem to be holding on to the dialogue with INA, but have been more upbeat about relations with the Sadrists than with ISCI lately (Ammar al-Hakim today for the first time seemed to rule out both Maliki and Allawi as suitable premier candidates).

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election | 33 Comments »

Does Saudi Arabia Really Want a United Iraq?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 April 2010 12:41

The list of Iraqi guests at the palace in Riyadh over the past weeks prompts numerous questions about Saudi policy towards its eastern neighbour. For several years now, Riyadh’s Iraq policy has been a lot more passive than that of Iran, characterised by more muttering than meddling, and with relatively few attempts to reach out more broadly beyond Sunni-oriented leaders. For a long time it seemed as if the Saudi leaders still held on to futile dreams of an Iraq where Shiites could be almost excluded, as indicated for example by reports that Riyadh played a role in scuppering the tentative but promising alliance between Abu Risha (the awakening leader of Anbar) and Nuri al-Maliki last summer.

But with recent visits to Riyadh by ISCI’s Ammar al-Hakim and Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Masud Barzani, it is clear that the problem does not have to do with insurmountable ethno-sectarian barriers, but rather with the Saudi choice of guests… Full story at the Gulf Research Unit blog, where Iraq articles with regional dimensions will be posted occasionally. The comments option remains open at this blog, below.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, UIA dynamics, US policy in Iraq: Leverage issues | 7 Comments »

What Does It Take To Be a Kutla?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:03

It is a fascinating replay of July 2009. Back then, during the course of a single day, three different Shiite politicians announced three different days for the launch of the new Iraqi National Alliance (INA) – all of them ultimately proved to be wrong. Yesterday was no different. Different INA leaders offered different timelines and different explanations for the delay in the much-anticipated merger of INA and the State of Law alliance (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki, with some saying the formal launch was “imminent” and only subject to clarification of “banal technicalities” and others talking about several days and negotiations being at “a very early stage”. One wonders how this broad range of opinions will play out when the anticipated monster alliance will start negotiations outside the Shiite Islamist bloc with the aim of forming a government!

Obviously, the chief obstacle concerns the question of premiership. Maliki probably knows that the whole objective of the merger scheme is for the resultant INA/SLA bloc to claim the right to premiership and then to give it to a bloc member other than himself. This is the reason why Maliki keeps seeking for other solutions, though sadly they appear to involve rather futile attempts at challenging the results instead of exploring possible alternatives with Iraqiyya and Ayad Allawi (who just like him risks marginalisation in a Shiite–Kurdish dominated government project where the votes of Iraqiyya aren’t strictly speaking needed).

The other item that may postpone any successful merger has to do with the criteria for achieving kutla-hood, i.e. satisfying the requirements for being identified as the “biggest bloc with in the parliament in numerical terms”. The much-cited federal supreme court ruling on this subject is disconcertingly short on detail, and only speaks more broadly of the need to have a “single-entity” form (kiyan wahid). However, Iraqi parliamentary tradition as it has developed since 2005 offers more specifics. In particular it is clear that every kutla needs to have a leader or ra’is. Such leaders are mentioned in the parliamentary bylaws of 2006, and, more importantly, in practice they have become quite significant because of a number of decisive meetings that have been held at the level of bloc leaders. In these meetings, the norm has been one leader per bloc, for example Fuad Masum for the Kurdistan Alliance, the late Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim for the United Iraqi Alliance (succeeded in 2009 by Jalal al-Din al-Saghir), Hassan al-Shammari for Fadila once they broke away from UIA, and so on.

Presumably, the need to agree on a bloc leader forms another complicating factor for the INA/SLA merger, since they will have to agree on a single person. Also it is interesting that Iraqiyya still seem to believe that they may have a degree of leverage in the PM question through the Sadrists, with some reports even hinting that the delay of the SLA/INA merger was caused by a decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to hear a last-minute appeal from the Iraqiyya delegation currently visiting Iran! But most of all, the next steps may depend on the decisions of Nuri al-Maliki, who is right to ask himself why he should be forced into a political suicide so soon after having received more votes than any other Iraqi politician.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, UIA dynamics | 48 Comments »

Compensation Seats To Be Awarded According to the Procedures of 2005

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 16:10

One little news story that has almost drowned in all the speculation about coalition-making concerns the modalities for awarding the 7 “compensation seats” in the next Iraqi parliament.

Over the last week, following a(nother) non-decision by the Iraqi federal supreme court, it has become clear that the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) will retreat from its own regulation 21 on the award of compensation seats and instead employ the method first stipulated in the election law back in 2005. In practice, this means that instead of giving these seats to the best vote-getters within the winning entities that just failed to achieve representation in the governorates, coalition leaderships are to present lists of candidates to IHEC listed in the order they themselves (i.e. the leadership instead of the electorate) prefer.

There are at least two troublesome aspects of this decision. The first is the potential for subversion of the will of the electorate implied by this method, since leaders in theory can award the seats to any candidate within their list regardless of their number of personal votes. True, the consequences are considerable less than in 2005, since the overall number of compensation seats awarded has been dramatically reduced (from 45 to 7). Nonetheless, it seems unclear what kind of democratic principle can be evoked to justify the award of this kind of “lordship” to a candidate with only a handful of votes, whereas candidates with more than 10,000 personal votes may obtain no representation. Secondly, of course, any tampering with IHEC regulation 21 could in theory open up a can of worms, since there are other aspects of the award of seats – notably the re-ordering of candidates based on personal votes under the open-list system – that are not explicitly defined in the law.

This decision has another dimension too: It adds another item to the to-do list of the biggest parties. They now have until 15 April to come up with their lists of candidates to fill the compensation seats, two each for Iraqiyya, State of Law and INA (this probably also means at least another week of delay in certifying the results). Only the Kurds have so far been public about their decision (one seat for Fuad Masum of PUK). And once more, the focus will be on INA for more than one reason. It is the list with the greatest degree of internal fragmentation, and the leadership will face the delicate choice of rewarding the best vote-getters (typically Sadrists, although Ahmad al-Khafaji of Badr is also well positioned in Basra), or ISCI party veterans who were listed in Kurdish governorates, presumably to avoid any potential scandals over possible lack of support among their own core electorate in the Shiite-majority provinces (this could be Humam Hamudi who got 68 votes in Sulaymaniyya, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir with 67 votes in Dahuk, or maybe Rida Jawad Taqi, 9 votes in Arbil). Also, back in 2005, SCIRI used this mechanism to great effect, by winning no less than a third of its big parliamentary contingent precisely through such compensation seats for party elites obtaining a few hundred votes in places like Anbar.

In other news, four parties in the Wasit governorate council –ISCI/Badr, the Sadrists, the Iraqi Constitutional Party and Iraqiyya – have joined to form a common coalition against State of Law. These parties have very little in common except that they dislike Maliki, and it may be yet another attempt by ISCI at nudging SLA towards an all-Shiite alliance with INA. But Maliki still appears to be resisting: Today there were news reports first about an SLA/INA merger having actually materialised, only to be followed by rumours of a delay and continued negotiations.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election | 23 Comments »

The Intra-List Power Balance in Iraqiyya and State of Law

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 9 April 2010 16:31

It is quite natural that discussions of internal stability within the big coalitions that won the 7 March parliamentary elections should focus on the Shiite-led Iraqi National Alliance (INA). Not only does the internal fragmentation in INA seem most dramatic in terms of strong centrifugal forces; there is also a marked contradiction between a leadership heavily dominated by the weaker blocs (ISCI/Badr; Jaafari) and a numerically strong element that is poorly represented at the top (the Sadrists). Nonetheless, it may be worth taking a look at the internal politics of the two other big alliances, Iraqiyya and State of Law, which despite a stronger degree of internal coherence (or a greater lack of obvious foci for large-scale defections) both exhibit certain interesting trends as far as the use of the open-list system is concerned, at least in some of the governorates.

First though, one theoretical note on the Iraqi implementation of the open-list system. It cannot be stressed too much that the Iraqi electoral system is a hybrid of a closed list system and an open-list system. The method for counting the votes was left unspecified in the amended electoral law last autumn, and in its regulation on the subject, the election commission (IHEC) opted for a quite radical approach as far as the weight of open-list (tick an individual on the list) versus closed-list usage (no preference expressed) of the ballot was concerned: The final ordering of the candidates is decided only by the number of personal votes obtained, with no regard to original position on the list. In democratic theory, this could be said to be somewhat problematic, since one might well argue that a list vote with no candidate preferences indicated is not only a vote for the political entity in question, but also for the particular ordering of candidates on the list, as per the preset ranking decided by the leadership. (If the order on the list counted for nothing, the candidates might as well have been listed alphabetically, or according to age, or whatever.) Arguably, then, a more balanced approach to the hybrid of open and closed list would be to count each unmarked ballot as a vote for the top candidate on the list, transferring the vote to the next highest when the first has achieved the number required to win a seat and so on. This is of course all utterly academic as long as IHEC has ruled the way it has, but it does explain why well-organised radical challenges from below are quite easy under the Iraqi system (as seen first and foremost in the case of the Sadrists), and also why minor differences can have an enormous impact when the general number of personal votes is low, not least with respect to the women’s quota (where the struggle is often between candidates with votes in the 3-digit range).

Back to Iraqiyya and State of Law and their internal dynamics, a document from Iraqiyya provides an overview of the affiliations of the various winning candidates that can be summarised in the following table:

INM(Wifaq) INM(Hiwar) Nujayfi Karbuli Hashemi Eisawi Yawer TF Abtan
Basra 3
Dhi Qar 1
Qadisiyya 2
Babel 3
Karbala 1
Wasit 2
Baghdad 8 4 1 5 3 3
Anbar 3 3 2 3
Diyala 1 4 1 1 1
Salahaddin 4 1 1 1 1
Nineveh 2 2 7 1 1 6 1
Kirkuk 2 1 2 1
TOTAL (89) 27 16 9 12 7 8 6 3 1

***TF=Turkmen Front

Several points are noteworthy here. The first concerns terminology: Wifaq (the Ayyad Allawi group) and Hiwar (the Salih al-Mutlak group) have been listed separately in the party document because that reflects their status at the time of the registration of political entities for the elections in the summer of 2009. However, the two merged to form an integrated political movement, the Iraqi National Movement, later in the autumn. In that sense, they are now formally more closely integrated than, say, the two Daawa branches or even ISCI and Badr (somewhat confusingly, Iraqiyya also sometimes uses INM as an acronym for the entire Iraqiyya coalition). With 43 seats altogether, the Iraqi National Movement will probably be the biggest coherent entity in the new parliament, slightly bigger than the Sadrist bloc. It will be the only group in parliament with representation from Basra in the south to Nineveh in the north.

Another notable feature is that the potential challenges from competing centres of power are less pronounced than in the case of INA. This is so partly because of size (the biggest such bloc is that affiliated with Jamal Nasir al-Karbuli, president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, with 12 seats; Rafi al-Eisawi, sometimes referred to as an emerging player, has only got eight) and partly because of regional concentration/limitation (the Nujayfi and Yawer blocs limited to Nineveh where they have almost all their seats). Moreover, since it is the Mutlak and Karbuli groups that have been targeted most intensely by the de-Baathification committee (including an attempt at banning them as entities), any post-election de-Baathification that promotes other candidates of the list is only likely to strengthen the position of Allawi. With respect to the use of the open-list system, Iraqiyya voters south of Baghdad have largely followed the preferences of the party leadership, but in the capital and areas north there are certain interesting promotions, including Hasan Khudayr (a sahwa figure affiliated with Wifaq who jumped from 83rd to third position), Hamid Jassam (from the Karbuli camp, from 107th to eighth) and Talal Hussein al-Zawbai (Nujayfi group, from 129th to ninth). Some of these tendencies can also be seen in Nineveh, but on the whole the usage of the open-list system has a less dramatic and systematic impact on intra-list dynamics than in the case of Sadrists within INA. With the possible exceptions of the Karbuli bloc in Baghdad and the Yawer bloc in Mosul (Shammar tribe), the challenges “from below” are not particularly strong or concerted when it comes to Iraqiyya.

Many of the same tendencies can be seen with regard to State of Law, although the source material is less comprehensive here – limited to complete breakdowns for Basra and Wasit, a list of 40 candidates of the Tanzim al-Iraq branch of the Daawa (for all of Iraq), a list of the much smaller independent bloc affiliated with oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani (ditto), as well as complete lists from Baghdad and Najaf without entity affiliations but with some tribal names that make identification of individuals somewhat easier. The following table has around 20 unconfirmed seats and as such probably puts the main branch of the Daawa somewhat lower than what it should be:

Daawa (Maliki) Daawa (Tanzim) Harakat al-Daawa Shahristani Other independent Unconfirmed
Basra 5 3 1 2 3
Maysan 3 1
Dhi Qar 2 4 1 1
Muthanna 1 1 2
Qadisiyya 1 1 2
Babel 2 1 2 3
Najaf 1 3 3
Karbala 1 1 2 2
Wasit 3 2
Baghdad 6 2 1 10 7
Diyala 1
TOTAL (87) 22+ 13 1 6 25 20

***”Unconfirmed” candidates are likely to include additional Daawa deputies

SLA voting in Baghdad offers perhaps the best example of voters taking a passive (or, some would say, futile) approach to the open-list. On the one hand, there is the big “presidential” (or more correctly, “prime ministerial”) vote for Maliki the person (622,000). Then, with the exception of Jaafar al-Sadr (29,000), there is a huge gap to the next vote-getters, with many winners in the 3,000 range. Moreover, these candidates tend to be from the Daawa or they are independents, and as such unlikely to pose a big challenge to Maliki’s leadership.

That same tendency applies across the governorates where SLA won seats. The only systematic exception is the performance of Tanzim al-Iraq, which is particularly strong in the far south. In Basra, this is counterbalanced by a healthy score for Daawa candidates, but in Maysan and Dhi Qar the ascendancy of this SLA element – often thought to be somewhat closer to Iran than the rest of the Daawa – seems significant. Elsewhere, though, the bloc of Shahristani has gained only a modest number of seats. Additionally, many of the “independent” candidates seem to reflect the successful recruitment by SLA of government officials, who may be particularly loyal to Maliki for that reason. Typically, they are director-generals or high-ranking officials in the service sector, including a high number of medical doctors. Notable “climbers”  within the SLA include Adnan Rumayyid al-Shahmani (an ex-Sadrist who advanced from 93 to 10 in Baghdad) and Ibrahim al-Rikabi (a tribal shaykh of the Bani Rikab, from 76 to 19 also in Baghdad). Given the overall picture, though, these seem to represent successful cases of co-option rather than zones of insecurity for Maliki.

What are we to make of these numbers? Rather than atomizing, should we not be looking for bigger combinations right now? The point is that these dynamics are well known by party leaders and will shape negotiations over coming months. Already, the Sadrists are making use of their strong position within INA to signal their own preferences for the choice of prime minister. In this respect, both Iraqiyya and SLA still seem to be in reasonably good shape internally, with Allawi and Maliki not facing any systematic challenges to their own positions. One thing to think about for Maliki, though, is that if he merges with INA in a pan-Shiite bloc, the main branch of the Daawa will seem comparatively small, with independents being neutralised and the Tanzim al-Iraq branch potentially leaning more towards Iran and ISCI/Badr.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi nationalism, UIA dynamics | 54 Comments »

Jaafari Wins the Sadrist Referendum

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 7 April 2010 11:00

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Just a few Iraqi wire reports to go by right now, but if confirmed this would seem to suggest that Jaafari has emerged in the “neutral”, compromise role that Maliki himself played in the UIA in early 2006 (Jaafari’s own bloc having been reduced to a single seat in the next parliament, held by him personally). It would also serve as a reminder of the problems involved in merging INA with SLA, whose break with Jaafari was other than amicable. Additionally, Jaafari’s victory highlights potential complications in the INA-Kurdish relationship: Back in 2006 he was the PM nominee that was “unacceptable” to the Kurds, which led to his replacement by Maliki (who in turn ended up being seen as equally “unacceptable” by many Kurds).

The full results are reported as follows: Jaafari, 24%; Jaafar al-Sadr (the son of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and an SLA candidate), 23%; Qusay al-Suhayl (a Sadrist from Basra), 17%; Nuri al-Maliki, 10%. According to one report, Adil Abd al-Mahdi (INA) and Ayad Allawi (Iraqiyya) did not achieve a significant proportion of votes but others say Allawi got 9%; Bahaa al-Aaraji (another Sadrist, from Dhi Qar), 5%; Ahmad Chalabi, 3%; Abd al-Mahdi, 2%, which would mean a relative success for Allawi among this segment of voters. Also, some reports have Rafi al-Eisawi, deputy PM and the Iraqiyya number one candidate in Anbar, at 2%, which is quite impressive given that he was not listed on the ballot and Sadr City is not exactly considered his home turf.

It should be added that the “referendum”, in which some 1,5 million Iraqis supposedly took part, was entirely impromptu and reports of children voting etc. have circulated. At any rate, the result is probably a good indicator of the stance and the preferences of the Sadrist leadership.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, UIA dynamics | 53 Comments »