Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for July 5th, 2013

Personal Vote Results from Provincial Elections in Anbar and Nineveh: The Decline of Nujayfi and the Fragmentation of the Political Landscape

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 5 July 2013 10:33

Following the announcement of the final results on 27 June, the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) has now also released the personal vote results from Anbar and Nineveh for the postponed provincial elections that were held on 20 June. The results add some interesting information on political dynamics in the two north-western Iraqi provinces.

In terms of comparison with the rest of Iraq, it is clear that politicians in Anbar and Nineveh are struggling in terms of building relationships with their voters. Despite running in  the most populous governorate after Baghdad, politicians from Mosul and Anbar mostly fail to make it into the top 15 list of the best vote getters nationally. The five exceptions are Nineveh governor Athil al-Nujayfi of Mutahhidun (40,067 votes), the two top Kurdish politicians in Nineveh (14,218 and 13,672 votes respectively), ex Nineveh governor Ghanem al-Basso (12,716 votes), and Anbar governor Qasim al-Fahdawi (14,503 votes). Additionally, beyond national comparisons, it is clear that for some of these politicians, personal vote numbers that may come across as decent actually look worse when compared with results in the previous local elections of January 2009. This is above all the case with regard to Nineveh governor Nujayfi. Reflecting his party’s stunning loss of more than 300,000 voters since 2009, his own results declined from around 300,000 personal votes to only 40,000. And whereas it is clear that Mutahhidun has done a good job nationally in terms of transforming the original Hadba party in Nineveh of 2009 to  the dominant force within the Sunni and secular camp from Basra to Diyala, the reversal of its fortune in Mosul itself may suggest that Athil al-Nujayfi’s governorship of that area may have become something of a liability for his brother Usama’s national ambitions (or, alternatively, that the move towards rapprochement with the Kurds is hurting them more there).

It should be stressed that these negative results do not reflect disinterest in the personal vote option among electorates in Nineveh and Anbar. Unlike the results for the other governorates, IHEC has helpfully calculated total personal votes in these latest results. In Anbar there were 404,218 personal votes whereas the total of approved votes was 414,554, indicating a 98% use of the personal vote. Interestingly, in Nineveh there were 596,603 personal votes whereas the total of approved votes is given as somewhat less, 581,449! This could either indicate that the personal vote numbers fail to eliminate dismissed ballot papers (which would suggest the existence of some deeper problems in IHEC’s final ranking of the candidates) or that IHEC has miscalculated in this particular case. In any case, it seems clear that Anbar and Nineveh voters have used the personal vote amply; it is just that the local politicians are struggling to gain the attention of their electorates.

With the extreme fragmentation of the vote, it is not really worth commenting on the coalition forming process pending certification of the final results which is not yet complete (and before which no new local government can be elected). With the large size of these councils (30-40 seats), the absence of any blocs with more than around 25% of the seats and a plethora of small parties with 1-2 seats, predictive efforts will be mostly useless. For Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the decent result of Governor Fahdawi in Anbar may come across as good news, somewhat similar to what happened in Salahaddin (which voted in another governor who is on reasonably good terms with Maliki). For their part, the Nujayfi brothers will have to sort out the contradictions between their attempts to pose as Iraqi nationalists and their increasing closeness to KRG and Turkey in an attempt to stem Maliki’s growing power – a contradiction that will be highlighted by the fact that the Kurds are the biggest seat winners in Nineveh.

At the very least, one can hope that the necessities of building viable local coalitions for the new councils may play a role in preserving a reasonable political climate in Iraq’s northwest. After months of angry protests – some of it in solidarity with anti-Assad forces in Syria – it does seem that local, Iraqi concerns determined the choices of the electorate in the end, and that performance on such concerns will continue to determine the fortunes of the local politicians there in the future.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »