Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Iraq Elections Result: Maliki’s Complicated Win

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 May 2014 21:23

The uncertified result of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, released by the election commission today, cannot be described as anything other than a victory for the incumbent prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.

Compared with 2010, Maliki increased his share of seats in the Iraqi parliament from 89 to 94. This quite despite the fact that Maliki experienced numerous defections from his list before the elections and therefore fielded a much  slimmer electoral coalition than in 2010. His success can hardly be translated as anything other than an indication of his continued popularity among voters despite growing unease about his rule among political opponents.


*Asterisk indicating affiliated list

Not only did Maliki manage to increase the size of his parliamentary contingent. His political enemies also look far more fragmented than before. In the Shiite camp, the Sadrist saw their bloc reduced by about a quarter of its previous size, whereas ISCI, despite making something of a comeback, was unable to garner more than 30 seats. Among the Sunnis, parliament speaker Nujayfi failed to emerge as the community leader he had been dreaming of, with Shiite secularist Ayyad Allawi continuing to appeal to secularists of Sunni and Shiite backgrounds alike. Even the Kurds have seen a greater degree of formal fragmentation than before (though a theoretical combined bloc strength of more than 60 seats is possible if they stay united and win over minority representatives as in the past). All in all, the group of parties that were on the verge of succeeding with a vote of no confidence against Maliki in 2012 now look weaker.

The question now, however, is what Maliki can do with this impressive victory.

Prior to the elections, a main debate was whether the next Iraqi government should be a power-sharing or a majority one. Maliki has been vocal in his expression for a smaller, majority government. Theoretically, he can also achieve it with these results, albeit not very easily. If Maliki stayed true to the “political majority” concept, it would involve gathering blocs that agreed with his vision of relatively centralized rule in Iraq, including a degree of central control of the oil sector throughout the country including Kurdistan. In theory, this could involve his own bloc, the Sadrists, smaller Shiite parties (Jaafari, Fadila, Sadiqun etc.), the Sunni party of Saleh al-Mutlak, parts of the Allawi list, as well as the many smaller minority and other lists (an unprecedented mass of some 40 deputies) that could help him reach the 165 absolute majority mark needed to form a government. In practice, though, the personal dislike of Maliki among many Sadrists and members of the Allawi list could make this prospect very difficult. Without them, his majority would be extremely slim, fragmented and vulnerable.

The point is, though, that with numbers like this, Maliki is likely to try hard to form some kind of majority government before considering other alternatives. One possibility he is likely to try is to redefine “political majority” in a looser, more opportunistic way, involving basically a Yes to a third Maliki term. With the right kind of deal he might be able to get the Kurds on board for this, thereby succeeding in keeping Shiite enemies – and Ammar al-Hakim in particular – on the sidelines. The problem, of course, is that much of Maliki’s political majority rhetoric centred precisely on defending the prerogatives of Baghdad with respect to controversial issues relating to foreign oil companies operating in Kurdistan.

Given these potential complications, it cannot escape notice that, in an unprecedented situation, the combined Iraqi Shiite Islamist parties now enjoy a theoretical option of forming a majority government. Together they have more than the 165 votes required for an absolute majority, meaning the question of reconstituting the pan-Shiite National Alliance will inevitably hit the agenda if Maliki fails in his other efforts. Indeed, such movements are already underway, and they could certainly gather steam if Maliki’s majoritarian dreams go nowhere. It has to be stressed though, that with Maliki’s strong showing in these elections compared with everyone else, the option of simply substituting him with someone more palatable to the Hakim and Sadrist camps is less relevant than it was prior to the elections. If everything else fails, Iran may well want to strongarm the Sadrists into accepting a third term for Maliki, which would have a reasonable parliamentary prospect with or without Hakim. It could also invite larger numbers of Kurds and Sunnis in, in which case it might well end up looking somewhat similar to the previous, oversized power-sharing governments formed in 2006 and 2010.

Meanwhile, the election result will be submitted for legal certification. In 2010, that process lasted more than 2 months, significantly delaying the process of government formation. Symptomatically, ISCI has already signaled that it may challenge the counting of the votes – something which will certainly not do anything to bring them closer to Maliki in the short term.

21 Responses to “The Iraq Elections Result: Maliki’s Complicated Win”

  1. faisalkadri said

    Nobody likes to talk about fraud, not even the international observers. My observation: Fraud had increased steadily with every election since 2003 while calls for transparency went the opposite way. There is no point in supporting the political process, it is beyond repair.

  2. Dylan said

    A lot of other observers are claiming the PUK won 21 seats. I have counted the seats and I am pretty sure that 19 is correct – do you know where they are getting 21 from?

  3. State of Law won 92 seats, the largest number of any parliamentary bloc, and was followed by two Shiite factions, the Sadrists with 33 seats and the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq with 29 seats, according to results released today by the Independent High Electoral Commission. ………………..

    “The National Alliance has definitely won a majority, more than 170 seats out of parliament’s 328 seats, and that allows us to form the next government,” al-Asadi said. “We have no intention to change or replace Nouri al-Maliki.” ……… WHAT IS MISLEADING HERE IS THAT THE ” NATIONAL ALLIANCE ” HAS NO COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE OR WILL. THE ” NATIONAL ALLIANCE ” IS A HOUSE IN THE SAME NEIGHBORHOOD, BUT WITH A DIFFERENT STREET ADDRESS, A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF AND WITHOUT A COMMON PROFILE, STATURE OR STANDING ON THE ISSUE OF THE IDENTITY OF THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER.

    The State of Law ” cluster ” has the ” right ” to the nomination of the next prime minister​ at the ” call or invitation ” of the next duly elected President of Iraq, but the nomination of the next Prime Minister is not the same as election, i.e., it is NOT a procedural formality with a foregone conclusion BUT an actual vote requiring the 2/3 support of the new parliament. Arguably Maliki, like Allawi in 2010, may have the right to ” A ” nomination, but ” THE ” nomination that yields a legally sufficient supportive vote / election may not be Maliki. Another way of looking at the process, procedurally and substantively, is that Maliki likely has the 1/3 vote necessary to prevent the election of another nominee, BUT Maliki does not have the 2/3 vote necessary for the election of himself as the next Prime Minister. SO, what we have is a recipe and all the ” fixings ” for an extended process and gridlock in the Parliament. Am I wrong ? All constructive comments are appreciated by me. Thanks. Edward Dennis

  4. Dylan, not sure about PUK since Kurdish politics isn’t my specialism. Maybe a smaller Kurdish bloc of 2 reps affiliated with or close to PUK and therefore counted as such? Dammit it was far easier when they stayed in a single bloc…

    Edward, I think you’re right re the internal fissures in the NA, though this framework should not be excluded as an option this time because it is a fallback position for many Shiite players if more adventurous projects go awry. You’re slightly wrong re procedure. The presidency is a two-thirds vote but it can automatically go to a majority vote if no candidate gets two thirds. The approval of the govt including the PM nominee designated by the president is by an absolute majority vote (not two thirds supermajority).

  5. Thank you Mr. Visser. Given the reality of your correction to my comment, it may very well be that a focused and motivated ” union ” of Shiite groups, Hakim and Sadr, et al, in concert with a united Kurdish front, and with the support of the Sunni / secular factions of Nujaifi, Allawi and Mutlaq that there may be 165 votes to elect the next and new Prime Minister in short(er) order ! What say ye sir ?

  6. If by that you mean Shiites that are anti-Maliki, I would say they will have problems reaching 165 even if all the others join in. Problems for them are 1) Maliki’s sense of victory (meaning he will not easily yield to any competing NA nominee), and 2) All the small parties that Maliki in if the others try to build a bigger parliamentary bloc to outnumber him.

  7. Dennis Law Firm, LLC said

    ​Mr. Visser, I am seeing a number of articles similar to the following ;

    *Hakim is a coalition of 190 deputies to form the next government**Baghdad / Iraq News Network -* A source close to the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Ammar al-Hakim, the formation of a coalition of large population of 190 deputies to form a government of national partnership, the source said the new alliance will bring together a coalition united and menus Sunni formed under the title of the Union, as well as some of the menus were part of the coalition of state law. He added that the leader of the Islamic Council Ammar al-Hakim will announce this alliance in a major conference to be convened soon show the results of the parliamentary elections, the sources said “a political alliance whatever will emerge in the coming days posed a number of political blocs comprising 190 deputies have been regulated to him the other blocks, including members from within the state law in light of the differences that beset the latter and the intention of more than figure it run for a bag of prime minister. “the sources added,” The meetings were held in Erbil included both Barzani and Najafi and Allawi and officials of the Sadrist movement and the citizen, as well as Arabic, headed by al-Mutlaq for browning the project to establish political bloc, New The task of forming a government with the spectra of the Iraqi people without marginalization. “She continued,” The fortunes of al-Maliki is weak in this alliance so that the blocks from inside the law are looking for other representatives of state law to participate in the new coalition, including the mass-Shahristani and Ameri and writer who seek to participate in government the next or get high positions. ”

    What am I missing ? Thank you for your willingness to engage with me on these topics. Edward Dennis

  8. It’s not mathematically impossible. Note, however, that ISCI has been in the forefront for calling for the PM question to be settled inside the Shiite alliance. The above solution would also require the formal formation of a parliamentary bloc (kutla) that is bigger than Maliki’s 95. Such a large cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic bloc has never been formed in the Iraqi parliament before, with the Kurds in particular reluctant to become formally subjugated to any non-Kurdish platform.

  9. BGG said

    Much enjoy the excellent commentary. However, unless there is some major “relationship melt down” (among current affiliates) that broader based cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic bloc – forming the next government is exactly what I see coming. Further – there are a couple of Shia PM candidates that would enjoy broad based, enthusiastic support from such an alliance. Is this not something of the same tactic used by Maliki himself to garner the nomination in 2010?

  10. JLG said

    Mr. Viser thank you for your posts about Iraq After Talisman gate closed his blog I find your posts the best about the current situation in Iraq. Please could you provide some information regarding the terrorist group named Asaib al-Hab or League of the Righteous and its outcome in votes in this election? Among the female winners do you have any information whether their belong or no to secular or religious parties? I guess belonging – the winners-to religious parties would not add up to improve and develop the women rights in Iraq.
    News about Mital al Alusi candidates and results?
    I am agreeing with Mr.Faisalkadri about the possibility of corruption and fraud during the election process since Maliki and his inner circle has tight control of the security agencies and public finances.

  11. BGG, Yes it is the same tactic, but they would have to form a formal bloc. That’s what Maliki did with the National Alliance in 2010, and I think doing something similar would be a psychological quantum leap for some of the others if it involved creating an imaginary Change bloc. Seeing the Kurds submerge themselves into such a greater entity without Kurdish control at the top, I think, would be something of a watershed and I’m not sure it is a realistic propspect.

    JLG, thanks, the Asaib Ahl al-Haqq ran an affiliate called Sadiqum which received no more than one vote (in Baghdad). Thus, it is having a greater impact in Western media than among Iraqi voters at this time. The female winners are mainly seculars with respect to theKurdish ones and those on the lists of Allawi, Nujayfi and Mutlak. The rest are mainly Shiite Islamists.

    Mithal al-Alusi won a seat in Baghdad along with two others from the Iraq coalition.

  12. Salah said

    Just to add to what Faisalkadri said about “Nobody likes to talk about fraud”
    Looks to me whatever the crying we heard from most of Iraqi west North Cities (Anbar, Nainwa, SalahAldeen) all those who accused Maliki of sectarian test they did not control their greediness for some sort of Maliki bribes an love of been within the next government.
    I cannot understand if those who are not marginal in numbers comparing to Maliki and his ilk & Sec. Where are their numbers?
    Where are their Votes?
    Where is their weight?
    Could they use the Kurd as their allies to form the government? Which is not possible at all due to their fragmentations.

    The election done and votes casted and its appear that Maliki a winner despite all “fraud” bribes and not transparent acts may be taken which give strong result for Stat of Law.
    So they should by now shut up and do their homework if they like to role Iraqi.

  13. How many seats are at stake here ? ” the delegation of (the Solidarity bloc), headed by Hassan al-Saidi and the governor of Dhi Qar Yahya al-Nasiri and Syed Ali Syed Talib …….. announced their joining to the state of law coalition and support the nomination of al-Maliki as prime minister for a third term. ”

  14. The Solidarity bloc is just one seat. But there have been further announcements from the Kafaat & Jamahir bloc (2 deputies). The Dawla Adila bloc is also so pro-Maliki as to be practically part of State of Law, so I currently estimate State of Law at 99 seats, plus the one seat of Sadiqun (Asaeb Ahl al-Haqq).

  15. Thanks. How many seats at stake with the following article ?

    Iraqi Wafaa coalition in Najaf joins State of law

    26/05/2014 11:21:00

    Najaf / NINA / Iraqi Wafaa Coalition, led by governor of Najaf, Adnan al-Zurfi announced its joining to the State of Law Coalition and support the nomination of Maliki as prime minister.

    Zurfi said in a press statement today, “We declare our joining to the State of Law Coalition and support the nomination of Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister for a third term.”

    He added “We support Maliki for a third term for our great faith in the project announced by the state of law coalition.”

  16. That’s 2 more seats, bring Maliki over 100.

  17. Recent article quoting an unidentified source, for what it is worth : 112 deputies with Maliki’s third term!!

    Dated: May 26, 2014

    Baghdad / Iraq News Network – source revealed on Monday that the number of seats in a coalition of state law increased to 112 seats in parliament. Source said: “The number of seats State of Law coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, increased to 112 seats in the next parliament.” The source, who asked not to be named, said, “This rise came after the accession of a number of political blocs to the coalition,” he said, adding that “those blocks indicated its support for Maliki’s third term.” and announced a number of political blocs since yesterday and today, Monday (26 May 2014), joining the coalition of state law, most recently joining coalitions Salahuddin and Nineveh, which include three seats to the coalition, according to the announcement and the Youth and Sports Minister Jassim Mohammed Jaafar.

  18. This on the other hand is entirely uninteresting since it does not name the source or even the parties that allegedly joined.

  19. SLC propaganda ” leak ” is a likely / possible origin. The following reference is found later in the day. ” The State of Law coalition announced on Monday, that the announcement of the biggest bloc in the House of Representatives after the ratification of the results of parliamentary elections, as pointed out to join some of the blocks to him and hold dialogues with the other, while the source revealed that the number of seats in a coalition of state law increased to 112 seats in parliament. ”

  20. Also being suggested certification could last until late June now, so we’ll see how much Maliki’s bloc grows meanwhile.

  21. Khalid al-Asadi: the formation of the next government will not take more than two months

    26/05/2014 12:42:00

    BAGHDAD / NINA / MP, of the State of Law Coalition, Khalid al-Asadi said that “the formation of the next government will not take more than two month, or less than two .”

    He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that “legally and constitutionally we cannot delay forming the government for a long time, as happened in past periods. Because the decision of the Federal Court has set a time for the formation of the government, refusing the open sessions of the parliament after the end of its Legislative role “.

    He continued that “legally speaking and after the ratification of the election results, the president calls the parliament, within fifteen days, to hold its first session, to elect a speaker and two deputies, and then elect the presidential, who calls the head of the largest bloc in the Parliament to form a government within thirty days” ..…ar95_VQ=HEIMFL

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