Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Political Crisis Cancelled, Provincial Elections Next in Iraq?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 6 July 2012 17:26

During the course of the past month, the move to unseat Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has gradually faded in strength. Within the last week, the top Sadrist leadership formally changed their position on sacking Maliki. For their part,  leading Kurds complain only they and “parts of Iraqiyya” are pressing for a questioning of the premier. True, the concept of “withdrawing confidence” remains on the agenda in the Iraqi press, but increasingly “reform”(islah) is the word of the day.

“Reform” will suit Maliki just fine since it mainly involves giving other Iraqi politicians the chance to bicker forever over the fine print of grandiose declarations that are unlikely to have any practical impact. Iraqi politicians rarely miss the opportunity of engaging in this kind of business.

There is however one item where Maliki needs the support of parliament: Local elections. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, the Iraqi supreme court has ordered parliament to fix the election law and in particular the distribution of surplus seats to better fit a proportional logic. Secondly, Iraq needs to have a new elections commission approved. Partially, this is because the mandate of the current IHEC has expired. From Maliki’s point of view there is also the problem that he sees the current board as hostile and biased against him.

Both votes – i.e. changes to the elections law and confirmation of IHEC – can be done by a simple majority. This makes it easier for Maliki to prevail since he can benefit from the generally low attendance levels in the Iraqi parliament and clinch victories with perhaps no more than 20 to 40 votes from outside his list needed. Any discussion of the election law is also likely to bring up the issue of Kirkuk (which still hasn’t had the elections it should have had in 2009) and recently it is Maliki, rather than Iraqiyya, that has been able to mobilise Arabs in Kirkuk on an Iraqi nationalist basis. It is noteworthy that when Maliki failed to do something similar in autumn 2009, it was apparently the result of strenuous American and international (UNAMI) pressure to keep Kirkuk off the agenda at the time.

The local elections are scheduled to take part in January 2013. Comments by Iraqi legislators to the effect that the needed changes are ready for a vote in parliament and that elections can go ahead around April 2013 seem overly optimistic. Nonetheless, it is a good sign that so far there is no indication that Maliki – who did well in Baghdad and the southern Shiite majority areas in January 2009 – is deliberately procrastinating in the way the leading Kurdish parties are doing in their own federal region, where local elections get continually postponed. It is true that it is Maliki’s political challengers such as the Sadrists that have taken the lead in preparing for the next vote (above all through holding their own primaries), but unlike the Kurdish leaders, Maliki does at least have an incentive for working with legislators on the elections issue since he desperately wants to get rid of the current IHEC board.

In the end, it may well be that the conduct of these next local elections – rather than squabbling over the diffuse Erbil agreement – will serve as the main indicator of which way Iraq is heading as a democracy.

37 Responses to “Political Crisis Cancelled, Provincial Elections Next in Iraq?”

  1. Mohammed said


    Here is a naive question on my part: why is it that I have never heard about formal debates preceding elections in Iraq? It seems that all the political parties in Iraq are secretive in one way or another. The political battles are fought in the press with “unnamed sources,” etc. I do not recall any bonafide real debates prior to the last elections.

    In comparison, even Iran (not known to be a bastion of democracy), pretty much had an open debate prior to the last election between ahmedenejad and husseini where husseini proceeded to call ahmedenejad a dictator on national TV to his face. Of course it should be moderated so it doesn’t turn into an insult contest and is focused on issues important to the iraqi voter.

    Even if one party doesn’t want to do this, at least debates can be held within a party (primaries) to differentiate that party’s openness from other secretive closed parties.

    To your knowledge, has this ever been proposed prior to elections?


  2. Reidar Visser said

    I can’t remember having seen or read about any real political debates either. Of course, Iraq is not a presidential polity, so that goes some way towards explaining the greater focus on lists than personalities, but it’s not an excuse. Maybe because many of the politicians are out of the country most of time? Would have been interesting to see Maliki slug it out with Barzani, Allawi and Sadr, but those three last-mentioned ones are rarely in Baghdad.

  3. Christian said

    So Maliki wins once again.

    So who do you think will get the antiquities and culture ministry positions in 2014 RV?God knows IS will need *something* by then.It’s not as if they’re going to unite on the IHEC issue,quite frankly.

  4. faisalkadri said

    If the questioning and NCV are allowed to take place On Time then it will be a gain for democracy no matter what the outcome. But if we get Talbani style delay tactics then its a defeat.

  5. Christian said

    I second this question.
    Though I can imagine insults would continue with or without a moderator Mohammed.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Christian, your abbreviation IS refers to what exactly?

  7. Christian said

    Iraqiya Slate.
    I Aplogize that I wasn’t more specific.

    My sarcasm was making the point that what with Iraqiya Slate’s falling apart because of Pro-Maliki defections and incompetence at top that even their patronage opportunities would more then likely decrease.Similar to how the American Whig Party fell apart.Not with a bang but a whimper so to speak unless something serious changes of course………

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Okay, thanks. To the extent Iraqiyya ever had acronym status, it was INM (Iraqi National Movement). But I think the absence of a standardised acronym illustrates the point.

  9. bb said

    “Barzani, Allawi and Sadr, but those three last-mentioned ones are rarely in Baghdad.”

    Goes a long way to explaining why prime minister Maliki continually sees off challenges to his leadership.

    Truly, Allawi seems to have no idea. Grandstanding, not prepared to put in the hard yards.
    Too many Iraqiyya activists turning out to be just piss and wind running around Washington begging State to do the job for them. It’s a joke. Sadrists have played them like minnows.

  10. Christian said

    RV,then why the hell does NINA keep calling them the IS as in Iraqiya Slate?Like you said this just makes my point.
    Nobody ever had a meeting on the *NAME*?


    See this for an example

  11. observer said

    You (and RV and the rest) have no idea how many contacts we get from SOL MP’s. Anyway, you keep it up in talking to each other in your echo chambers.
    Agent 66 signing out..

  12. Santana said


    There is a good reason why Allawi, Sadr and Barzani avoid Baghdad…..same goes for Hashimi…..incase you are not aware….there is a bonafide bloodthirsty Mafia in Baghdad run by Maliki and backed by several terror groups who in turn are run by Iran….can you really blame them for staying the hell out of Baghdad ??

  13. observer said

    You all can speculate if there are enough votes or not all you want. the idea of bringing in the PM for questioning must be accepted if there is any future for democracy in Iraq. If the interrogator is good then there is enough that Maliki and Da3wa should be fearful about.

    Let me see what kind of arguments that you all citizens of the echo chambers can bring about belittling the efforts of the minnows and the little Kurdish dictators. BB will object to my “patronizing” style but forgets that he (or is it she) has little hesitation to be patronizing calling us minnows. Esquire Mo will no doubt point out the futility (or is it the irony?) of a little Kurdish dictator and an ex Baathi holding Maliki, bless his 5 o’Clock shadow, to account because it is the case of the pot calling the kettle black, forgetting the hundreds of ex baathis that Maliki exempted from DeBaathification (extra-constitutionally – but who cares?), or the dictatorial moves of Maliki and the one and only party, and so on and so forth.

    3eesh wo shoof.
    Peace be upon you all,

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I wish to stress the difference between commenting on the legitimacy of questioning the PM and analysing the likelihood of such a process succeeding in unseating him. I think Maliki’s critics have every right to ask him the questions they want, but the bigger point in the article I wrote – and, implicitly, in the article you linked as well – is that the Kurds and parts of Iraqiyya are now alone in calling for Maliki’s dismissal. The Sadrists are gone and the numbers no longer add up (if they ever did at all, which still seems unclear).

  15. observer said

    The sadrists are not gone. This is the difference of being on the ground and not. Speculate all you want. In the end, Maliki knows that if it ever gets to a vote, he is done. This explains (or it should) why Iran is willing to burn the Talabani card and call in all the favors to jeep their boy from even facing the POSSIBILITY of facing an NCV. ironically, the Iranians and DOS are unified in this postion. Someday, somebody is going to have to explain to this simple minded fellow the logic.

  16. faisalkadri said

    I don’t know if you are really “on the ground” but your explanation makes sense.

  17. observer said

    Would Obama be crazy enough to start a war with Iran in the middle of an election year?

    Is this why “stability” in Iraq is needed and nothing should happen to create a vacuum in the Emerald City?

    Just looking for explanations to the enigma of Iran and US supporting Maliki. Simple minds need simple answers.

  18. Christian said

    You (and RV and the rest) have no idea how many contacts we get from SOL MP’s.”

    Then please have your coalition move its ass already for God’s sakes.Please just stop talking about it and end this long fucking national nightmare already.Make the Khomeinists squeal and allow Iraq and its democracy to inevitably prosper under liberal,progressive,and technocratic leadership.

    It’s just that you guys actually have to *do things* here before people like me or Reidar have confidence once again that you guys are up to the task of removing Mr.Maliki.I have no doubt at this point that some technocrat and unifier could do a better job than Maliki at PM,it’s just that you guys have to break the stereotype of liberals in the Middle East sucking at politics before you can do this.Stop sucking at politics!Make Allawi stop acting like Allawi!

    “ironically, the Iranians and DOS are unified in this postion. Someday, somebody is going to have to explain to this simple minded fellow the logic.’

    Now now,you already know the answer to this question.It’s because in particular there’s an election in five months and Mr.Hope and Change needs to have all his cards kept together in one place or else Romney will devour him for his terrible economy.So it is that he can’t afford “instability” in Iraq or else the shitstorm will “fall” on him for the Iraqi Government “collapsing”(even though only the ruling coalition will fall).

    Now in general,Americans in DOS,DOD pretty much view Iraq through sectarian lenses because of the hell of 2006(irony ignored that they helped exacerbate this via the affirmative action and sectarian quota anti-technocratic system as pointed out by reidar numerous times),so “stability” and “security” are their prime objectives in country.And Maliki being the pimp that he is displays the image of “competence” in delivering it,so the idiots support him(Allawi’s political incompetence doesn’t help in dissuading US support from Maliki either) for “lack” of a better choice.

  19. Observer said

    I presume you read the news from today. Now watch the “court” issue its edict regarding the constitutionality of calling maliki to istijwab.

  20. Reidar Visser said

    You mean, the fact that Sumaria finally disovered the ruling I wrote about in early May?

    I always wondered why it received no press coverage at the time.

  21. Observer said
    I meant this in regards to sadrists. When i said that they are still on, i knew that they were playingthe same game maliki is/was playing.
    The istijwab request is on, and now maliki is going to stop it using the court that is in his pocket. Now tell me where do we go to cash your condemnation when it comes.

  22. Christian said

    “Would Obama be crazy enough to start a war with Iran in the middle of an election year? ”

    Hell no!The man doesn’t raid the offices of the Pakistani ISI who brazenly murder UN troops in Afghanistan on a daily basis!

    “Is this why “stability” in Iraq is needed and nothing should happen to create a vacuum in the Emerald City?”

    “Stability’ is needed in Iraq so the oil can flow,the economy can grow,and overt terrorist groups don’t have a sanctuary in the country anymore.Maliki displays via his image to the Americans that he can “provide” these things so hence the American world supports him.

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, this is your second request for a condemnation. It is already there. I called the ruling and the court (and the political pressure involved) a “parody”. Frankly it is somewhat unfair of you to criticise me for failing to condemn Maliki’s potential use of the ruling before this has happened when I am one of the few who have even touched on the existence of the ruling at all.

  24. Mohammed said


    can you clarify something. my understanding is that for the prior court ruling about ali al-adeeb, the court did not rule out istijwab per se, but they only stated that parliament needs to specify what constitutional violation or criminal acts a minister is accused of prior to istejwab. In the case of Maliki, you have already pointed out his constituitional violations (such as appointing division commanders without submitting request to parliament). So, if Maliki is called for istejwab based upon being accused of violating the constitution (as his opponents have alleged), would this not be consistent with that ruling, and hence, Maliki should submit himself for istejwab?

    Although I agree with you that the prior supreme court ruling was a joke, but it seemed that the court was setting a precedent that would prevent parliament from calling ministers anytime they wanted to just for the hell of it.

    Your thoughts?


  25. Reidar Visser said

    Yes. Specific constitutional infractions. But Iraqiyya apparently want to ask him about broader dossiers, including corruption, prisoner treatment etc. I suspect that may be easier for the court to strike down with reference to their newfound interpretation of the constitution.

  26. Observer said

    I asked where domi cash your condemnation? In other words, all the sobber analyses is not worth the time to read when it comes to practical applications. It is the duty of people who proclaim a belief in democracy to recognize the danger signs and be willing to call a spade by its real name beofre the fact not after the fact. Becaue the wieght of your analyses is worthless after the fact… But it is very influencial BEFORE the fact as various analysts are trying to make up their minds about intensions of this or that figure. Connecting the dots was the problem when all the analysis was done post september 11th. After the fact analysis was worthless except in diagnosing the fault of the analysts BEFORE the event.

  27. Observer said

    Since you know all the answers, i need not respond to you. I will satisfy myself with reading your opinion., i respectfully reserve my right not to agree with you without having to get into endless circular debates.

  28. Christian said

    Trouble with your stance Observer is that it’s the same one you people have within Iraq.

    Yeah you disagree with Maliki and hate the SOB,too bad you’re just not gonna get in “circular” debates with your political opponents by you know,actually doing things to them instead of just talking.

    And all the while the Khomoenists walk all over you overtly,Maliki is lying his ass off and bribing the hell out of people.This then ironically garners him sympathy in DOS/DOD because he’s then a “can do” kind of guy compared to the “known unknown known unknowns” who “wouldn’t be able” to replace him.You folks want American support?Even more political support in country?BE A POLITICIAN.Start lying to people!You don’t have to be an Iraqi,American,or even an Iranian to know this.You just have to understand politics.Allawi needs to stop feeling sorry for himself and wilting all over the Middle East and the pages of the Wapo.The Kurds would be a wonderful place to start.Talk about how the Arabs are being “marginalized” or something in Kirkuk or wherever and start pulling Sadrs and Malikis;start pretending to care about the poor,talk about getting electricity up.Have a Sadrist style mandate of not getting electricity in your political offices so you can show you “understand the poor”.Have a lot of base in the Al Anbar?Have a news conference in front of a piece of dilapidated infrastructure talking about how the incompetent feds are neglecting the province.Go to Kirkuk and show your “solidarity” with the locals against the “Kurdification” of the city.Scream about how the ISCI and Badr Organization are Iranian hacks and federalists who wish to divide the country.Hand out guns and cell phones to people on the street.Just do something!

  29. faisalkadri said

    Your words are wonderful, you forgot just one little thing: It is UNSAFE to do what you suggest, it has been unsafe, totally unsafe, for a while.
    Since you speak Simple, I will speak Simple to you: Insecurity serves the interests of sectarians (read Iran), the more insecure the more polarized the opinions. You get a bomb somewhere, the government blames Al Qaida, the Americans and the rest of the world follow mass media and hail the leaders of Iraq even when US officials knew it was not Al Qaida.
    Who benefits from insecurity? That’s the question you should ask.
    Frankly, I am like you, I am disgusted with Iraqiya members and others who rush to the US and ask for direct intervention, but you can’t deny that the US has responsibility for bringing insecurity, it has to do something substantial but short of deploying troops on the ground. The solution I prefer is to get a UNSC mandate for census and elections.

  30. Christian said

    “Since you speak Simple, I will speak Simple to you”

    Are you really insulting me and saying I’m “simple” for condescending to a political movement that is one of the most incompetent in human history?
    You think perhaps that I’m giving “simple” advice to Allawi because Allawi and company sorely fucking need it?

    “It is UNSAFE to do what you suggest, it has been unsafe, totally unsafe, for a while.”

    There isn’t a set of false dichotomies between whimpering for Washington to do your job for you and going out in front of a crowd Morsi style pulling your shirt off and revealing you don’t have body armor while yelping that since you have God and the mob on your side you have nothing to be afraid of from your oppressors.

    A “liberal” or a “moderate” politician(whatever ever one might describe him as) was just recently elected in Libya.How did he do this?By not being terrible at politics.This IS simple.You just have to not do dumb things like seriously think Maliki will give you a head seat on an unconstitutional “Council of Strategic Policies” instead of the Prime Minister’s seat.

    “Who benefits from insecurity? That’s the question you should ask.”

    The coalition that establishes its independent existence on a pretext of defending against that insecurity.We all know who that is.Oh,and the Iranians because now they have to support that coalition from a NCV in the name of “stability” because they care oh so much about the security of their neighbor that they established the Ramazan Corps to funnel death squads into the country back during the war.This defends them from the liberals in Iraq screwing them over and helps consolidate their foreign policy goals of not letting the West use Iraq either as a direct base for assaulting Iran,not letting the MEK use Iraq as a base,and not letting natural Arab anti-Iranian let alone anti-Waliyat Al Fiqh sentiment affect Iran’s imperial interests in country and in the region.

    But let us face facts.Who is in office right now “combating” this scourge of insecurity?Now keeping that in mind,how exactly are we to get these people out of office?A NCV is a splendid idea,the Iranians and Americans won’t like it,but it’s still a better idea then hoping Maliki won’t win a third term in 2014.What does this require to stave off the Iranian and Maliki bribery and patronage that will inevitably try to pick off the numbers of MP’s who will vote for NCV?A various assortment of backroom deals,outright bribery if needed,”guaranteed’ patronage,lying,political stunts,and “caring” for the poor.All of which I mentioned in possible examples in my previous post.

    “but you can’t deny that the US has responsibility for bringing insecurity”

    I never did.

    “it has to do something substantial but short of deploying troops on the ground.”
    “The solution I prefer is to get a UNSC mandate for census and elections.”

    As an American I can tell you this is never going to happen sadly.Ever since Mr.Hope and Change rejected Executive Immunity(similar to what American trainers have in Bahrain)and rejected even the serious discussion of partial immunity,he has to keep a good face on the “stability” of Iraq especially given the Syrian revolution and the election he has in four months.This is the reason the Americans actually end up agreeing with the Iranian position on keeping Maliki because the sentiment is that “there aren’t any good alternatives” or that “Maliki is at least good at killing people”.That and the typical 20 year cycle of isolationism is creeping up again here in the states,so expect a hard road convincing most Americans to even google Iraq let alone care or convince their lawmakers to do something about Maliki.

  31. bks said

    Christian, when did Obama reject “Executive Immunity”? Are you talking about immunity for the troops? He didn’t reject it, he *insisted* on it[1]. “Executive Immunity” refers to freedom from prosecution for members of the executive branch.



  32. Christian said

    Argh,sorry I was referring to the concept of “sovereign immunity” like what the Monarch of Bahrain has for American troops in his country.

    Click to access 11-74%20-%2011-15-11.pdf

    Pages 15 and 22 are salient here.

    Apparently Maliki wanted to give an American military presence in the thousands if not the tens of thousands sovereign immunity in violation of the constitution(which would require parliament to do it) in as much the same way he violated the constitution by getting to be Prime Minister again in the first place.

    The Americans rejected this.

    They then continued to support the unconstitutional Arbil Agreement and absolutely everything else about the rest of PM Maliki’s term.They now support Maliki unswervingly despite him violating the piece of paper every single godawful day he’s in office.

    Going back to the point I was making to Faisal Kurdi earlier in the thread and even the one I was making to Observer,this brings one to a very striking conclusion.

    That the Americans in their Iraq policy DO NOTHING in their rational self-interest.The Americans knowing full well how Maliki became PM for a second term hear him speak about using an unconstitutional loophole to allow *thousands* of American soldiers to stay in Iraq more or less permanently past 2011 in a country on Iran’s west border with the planet’s last major set of unexplored oil reserves where the USA just spent a trillion dollars defending.They then tell him to not do this,instead requiring an immunity declaration with “legitimacy” that would come through from the Parliament.Maliki in the present time recently faced a NCV wherein he was saved by Iranian patronage,lying,and bribery.Iran does this violating the damn constitution all the erstwhile.The USA during all this as we saw from the Mcgurk nomination hearings,places an emphasis on supporting the unconstitutional Arbil Agreement

    So in other words,when violating the Iraqi constitution proves beneficial to American power the Americans don’t do it.When the Iranians violate the Iraqi Constitution to exercise their power,the Americans will support it and bend over backwards to allow it.

    So a warning to the folks over at the INM.DO NOT count on the Americans.DO NOT.They will NOT do the thing even remotely sensible to their “interests” or yours.Allawi begging for DOS support might as well just start praying now.
    This is a scandal.

  33. faisalkadri said

    I described your argument as Simple because you ignored important details about the situation in Iraq, kind of reminded me of JWB, but I was not trying to insult you.
    Re. Morsi, Egypt is not under external influence to the extent of Iraq, there is no fair comparison here. And the issue is not Thinking that Maliki has good will, but Keeping your word and your promise. This is old stuff.
    Re. insecurity and who benefits from it, I would like to look at your reasoning from a different angle. Insecurity does not bring votes to an incumbent, if it was up to Maliki alone then he wouldn’t cause insecurity, he would get more popular vote without it, and his government is not convincing in its stance against terrorism. Keep looking for the real beneficiary from instability.
    Re. UN census and elections, I prophesied that the US will reach a situation where it Has to support it, such as when the reality of having an Iranian empire that includes southern Iraq sinks in.

  34. Christian said

    “Keep looking for the real beneficiary from instability.”

    Iran of course. The more ‘Baathist” plots against the state real or otherwise the
    greater the pretext for Debaathification and the obvious politicization and Iranian manipulation that would arise from this.

    More Al Qaeda bombings? The greater the “need” to build networks and alliances for convenience and “stability” with the Iranians to stave off the Wahhabi threat.
    (Ahmed Chalabi’s useful idiot vision of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran forming an alliance is salient here)

    More sectarian sentiment caused by insecurity? The more the Iranians can divide and conquer via fear and loathing of the “other’ in a country that was a hotbed of Arab unity against Khomoenism in the Iran-Iraq War that is now the second largest OPEC exporter and projected by the IMF as going to be the fastest growing economy in 2020’s.

  35. bb said

    Interesting developments … defection of Syrian Ambassador to Baghdad; results of the Libyan elections and the surprisingly narrow win of the islamist Egyptian president. Are the sunni islamists coming back from the high water mark?

  36. Christian said

    We could only hope. This is depending of course on whether or not the Saudis get their hands any deeper in actually trying to create puppets in Syria out of the opposition because of a lack of Obama influence on the ground similar to what Pakistan did with Hekmatyar in Afghanistan when the Americans left a vacuum of power there.

  37. Christian said

    And now the defected Syrian Ambassador to Iraq is criticizing Maliki for hypocrisy and appeasement of the Syrian Baath regime when it was Maliki who (accurately I may add) criticized the Syrians in 2009 for aiding Al Qaeda, the other Baathist groups, and using their intelligence services to murder thousands of Iraqis.

    This is wonderful.

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