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Anbar and Nineveh Form New Provincial Governments

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 2 August 2013 8:26

Through last-minute maneuvering this week, both Anbar and Nineveh managed to get new provincial councils seated before the end-of-Ramadan holiday begins in Iraq. This means the process of forming local governments following the local elections earlier this year is complete across Iraq (with the exception of the KRG and Kirkuk where no elections were held).

The Mutahhidun bloc of the Nujayfi brothers (Parliament Speaker Usama and Governor of Nineveh Athil) expressed satisfaction with both these new local governments, reflecting the fact that they played a key role in forming them. That is something of a comeback for the Nujayfis, who had seen a substantial drop of votes on their home turf in Mosul in the elections themselves. Whereas it seems clear that much wheeling and dealing has been involved and Mutahhidun among other things were forced to cooperate with the Kurds in the Nineveh council (they had marginalized them in 2009), Mutahiddun now clearly does emerge as something of a leading party in the Sunni-majority parts of Iraq from Anbar via Nineveh to Diyala, and with some decent representation in the Baghdad council as well.

What happened politically is that the Nujayfis in both governorates managed to win people from the Karbuli and Mutlak factions over to their side in order to neutralize potentially hostile blocs.  This is a significant victory for the Nujayfis since these are precisely the factions of Iraqiyya that have been more disposed to cooperating with Maliki in the past. Other parties with a greater potential for working with Maliki than the Nujayfi camp – including the bloc of former Anbar governor Fahdawi and the list of the Yawer clan in Nineveh – in the end remained marginal and on the sidelines of these new local government formations. Maliki can now probably only count on Salahaddin among the Sunni-majority governorates for some potential support.

The council formations in Anbar thus cements the role of Nujayfi  as some kind of unifying figure in the Iraqi north-west, and to some extent compensates for lost prestige resulting from the marked decline in votes in Nineveh itself. Even though it is debatable whether the Nujayfis personally enjoy the same level of influence in Anbar and Diyala as in Nineveh, this turn of events does seem to signify the return to the agenda of some of the radical rhetoric that characterized protest movements in Anbar earlier in the year. With Nujayfi stronger, these parts of Iraq are inevitably drawn closer to Turkey, the Kurds and Sunni oppositionists in Syria than what might have happened with an Anbar governor closer to Maliki.

Still, these were local elections only. There has already been talk about the emergence of a potential alternative to Maliki in the shape of an inter-sectarian alliance between his opponents; yet back in 2009, many tentative alliances that were floated during local council formation never grew into anything enduring for the subsequent parliamentary elections. It is that crucial stage of national elections, scheduled for 2014, that will henceforth take centre stage in Iraqi politics.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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 »

Provincial Powers Law Revisions, Elections Results for Anbar and Nineveh: Is Iraq Headed for Complete Disintegration?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 27 June 2013 9:38

A number of important political developments in Iraq this week have failed to receive the attention they deserve, especially for the light they cast on the perennial question of Iraq’s territorial unity in the face of real and imagined schemes of disintegration.

A good place to start are the provincial powers law “revisions” that were passed by parliament on Sunday. The word “revision” is somewhat misleading, since it can be argued that the new changes are so dramatic that they amount to a rewrite of the original law from 2008.

Here are some of the important changes:

Article 7-4: It is for the first time specifically stated that in an area of shared competency between the central government and the governorate, the policy of the governorate shall prevail.

Article 7-6: The governorate is given responsibility for all state officials in its jurisdiction – significantly no longer excepting the courts, the military and the universities which had previously been designated a central government preserve.

Article 7-9: Whereas the ministry in Baghdad was formerly involved in picking top officials of the various government departments operating in the governorates, the selection process is now exclusively limited to the governor and the governorate council.

Article 31-10: Whereas the military was previously expressly excepted from the authorities of the governor, this no longer applies and an ambiguous shared power formula is outlined.

Article 44: Revenues for the governorates are for the first time specified in law (rather than being the subject of annual budget negotiations). This includes 5 petrodollars per barrel of oil or 150 cubic metres of natural gas. Various potential taxes are mentioned, including the right of governorates to tax companies for damages to the environment.

Article 45: This was formerly a vague cooperation council between the central government and the governorates. The council is now being tasked with transferring, within 2 years, control of all governorate-based government departments under the following ministries to local authorities: Municipalities, housing, employment and social issues, education, health, agriculture, finance, sports. If the transfer is not complete within 2 years, the transfer will nonetheless be considered a legal fact. Henceforth, the role of the ministries will be limited to “general planning” only.

It has been suggested that these dramatic changes were acceded to even by sceptics as an alternative to the creation of federal regions. The question is: What is the point in arguing about the creation of federal regions when this law effectively transforms Iraq into a confederation consisting of all its governorates plus the virtually independent Kurdistan? Is it perhaps just the word “federalism” they fear more than anything else? Do Iraqi politicians realise the implications of giving governorate decisions priority in areas of shared competency? It is for example very hard to see any exemption of the oil and gas sector from the general scheme of provincial dominance, since energy is specifically referred to in the new law through a reference to article 112 of the Iraqi constitution.

Whereas decentralisers among the Kurds and ISCI will have been very happy with these new changes, it is more surprising to find Iraqiyya and the State of Law alliance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki backing them in a parliamentary session with unusually high attendance (217 out of 325 deputies). Of course, parts of Iraqiyya have long been drifting in a pro-federal direction, and with even Ayyad Allawi calling for widespread decentralisation of services. More surprising is the apparent green light from Maliki, whose parliamentary allies reportedly objected only to an initial article that further limited the powers of the Iraqi army locally – and who expressed satisfaction at the compromise that later emerged on this. Maybe it is the complications of government formation after the 20 April local elections that have prompted this apparent outburst of modesty on the part of State of Law?

More theoretically speaking, even if this law was adopted as a safeguard against the creation of federal regions it is hard to see why the pressures were perceived as being so acute at this time. Firstly, there are the recent (delayed) provincial elections results from Anbar and Nineveh. After pro-federal winds have been blowing over the Sunni-majority parts of Iraq for some time, there is nothing in these results to suggest the existence of an overwhelming demand for new federal regions in north-western Iraq. True, the Mutahiddun bloc of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi picked up 8 seats in each of these two provinces. But politicians with more anti-federal agendas (Mutlak, Karbuli, local lists etc.) achieved the same number of seats in Anbar and Nineveh and will make coalition forming something of a challenge for Nujayfi (on top of the fact that the Kurds emerged as the biggest bloc again in Nineveh with 11 seats). Second, if the persistence of demands for federal referendums was the problem for Maliki, it could have been solved much easier simply with legislative action to abrogate the law on forming regions that was adopted in 2006. This could have been done even with a simple majority in parliament and without infringing on the constitution since the right to form a region would be intact – it would just need another law to be passed.

The 2-year automatic sunset clause for transfer of service ministries to local control epitomises the decentralisation extremism of these latest amendments. One small potential hindrance remains – the federal supreme court. Technically, the law is a “proposal” emanating from parliament rather than a “project” driven forward by the government, and the supreme court has in the past struck down attempts by the legislature to circumvent the executive in the legislative process. Indeed, in 2010, the supreme court veto related to a far more modest decentralisation attempt to sever the ties between a couple of service ministries and the governorates. However, this year it is noteworthy that after initial protests, Maliki’s State of Law list has remained silent about the controversial law limiting the terms of the prime minister following its publication in the official gazette on 8 April. Similarly, there has so far not been any loud indication that they intend to protest this latest law on a technicality.

Amid all of this, deputy speaker of parliament Qusay al-Suhayl, a Sadrist, has resigned. That should give Iraqi politicians ample opportunity to do what they do best – disregard questions of governance and instead focus on petty personal struggles over top positions.

Posted in Federalism in Sunni-Majority Areas of Iraq, Iraq and soft partition, Iraq local elections 2013 | 6 Comments »

12 Iraqi Provinces Have New Governors; Anbar and Nineveh Hold Delayed Local Elections

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 20 June 2013 14:56

Things are not going too bad in local politics in Iraq: As of this week, all governorates that held provincial elections on 20 April have formed new local governments following certification of the final results in late May – hence more or less on time and in accordance with the legal framework. During the past few days, on top of the councils that were formed last week, new local governments have been seated in Karbala, Muthanna and Diyala.

As with the first batch of new governorate councils, a variety og government-formation dynamics prevailed in the last three councils. Karbala saw the emergence of a “political majority” government led by the State of Law alliance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and various local blocs including that of the sensation from the 2009 elections, Yusuf al-Hububi. The Sadrists and ISCI remained on the sidelines. Conversely, in Muthanna, Maliki’s allies cut a deal with ISCI to keep the governor position for themselves whereas an ISCI politician became council speaker. Finally, Diyala saw a particularly interesting deal whereby Kurds and a local Iraqiyya list formed the government with the support of the Sadrists – but not the other Shiites with whom they had run on a joint pan-Shiite ticket (mainly State of Law councillors including several from Badr and Fadila).

This makes for the following table of all the new 12 councils elected on 20 April:


Beyond the broad three-way classification of “consensus” and “political majority” (pro-Maliki and anti-Maliki), there are further nuances in this picture. For example, in Basra, ISCI in principle held the votes to exclude Maliki and more or less dictated the terms whereby the popular governor from Maliki’s list was given the consolation prize of the council speakership. In Maysan, perhaps the governorship given to the Sadrists more than anything reflects a longstanding association between the Sadrists and that governorate.

In sum, the outcome of the local government formation is a mixed bag for Maliki. He keeps control of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and consolidates his position in Mid-Euphrates governorates where ISCI was formerly strong. On the other hand, the loss of Baghdad and Basra must be painful, and with additional marginalisation experienced in Wasit and Diyala there should be plenty to think about as the parliamentary elections of 2014 approach.

Meanwhile, delayed elections for local councils in Anbar and Nineveh are being held today. Much is a stake in an area that is sandwiched between rising Sunni militancy in neighbouring Syria and a Baghdad government with which attempts at rapprochement have so far been quite ambiguous. Provisional results should be expected next week.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013 | 12 Comments »

The First Batch of New Iraqi Provincial Governments

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 17 June 2013 16:35

Since the final results of the Iraqi local elections were certified in late May, Iraqi local politicians have moved with reasonable speed towards forming new councils and appointing new governors. There has been much speculation about the way alliances are shaping up, but as of today, 8 out of 12 provinces that held elections on 20 April have actually completed the formalities of establishing new local governments.

In an echo of what happened in 2009, coalition formation has been a process full of surprises and not always in line with the most obvious predictions that emerged from the results themselves. Generally speaking, there has been a tendency of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s own concept of a “political majority” being employed against him, mostly after fellow Shiites from ISCI and the Sadrists decided to join forces to challenge his dominance in several provinces. Often these political majorities are based on little else than strong personal enmity towards Maliki and his State of Law Alliance, but this sentiment has proved sufficient to create anti-Maliki coalitions in some, if not all, the Shiite-majority governorates.

Perhaps the best way to typologise the new local governments is to sort them according to the level of conflict between the main blocs in settling the governorships and other top positions (of which the speakership is the most important).

First, there are consensus-based governorates where the Sadrist-ISCI deal at the national level gave way to local agreements and did not succeed in marginalising Maliki completely. These include Basra (ISCI governor, State of Law speaker), Maysan (Sadrist governor, State of Law speaker), Qadisiyya (Fadila governor, ISCI speaker). In Basra, the competition started out as a ISCI-Sadr coalition but Maliki’s State of Law eventually agreed to take the speakership, perhaps as a face-saving mechanism. It is a remarkable outcome that ISCI with only 6 seats won the governor position, and that the previous pro-Maliki governor – perhaps one of Iraq’s most popular politicians with more than 130,000 personal votes – was demoted to the speakership position. For its part, Maysan has seen Shiite grand coalitions before and the Sadrists simply retain their pre-eminent position, whereas the emergence of a pan-Shiite consensus government in previously contested Qadisiyya is a new phenomenon.

Second, there are competitive governorates. These include Najaf (local parties backed by State of Law in both top positions), Wasit (ISCI governor/Sadrist speaker), Baghdad (Sadrist governor/Mutahiddun speaker) and Dhi Qar (State of Law in both top positions). In these governorates, the votes on new government were characterised by boycotts and loud protests by the losers, highlighting the extent to which competition among the Shiite parties remains intense. The Baghdad outcome – where Maliki’s candidates also received a strong popular mandate in the shape of personal votes and a large number of seats – is another particularly interesting example that ISCI and the Sadrists are prepared to go to lengths to challenge Maliki. The inclusion of the Sunni-secular Mutahhidun bloc of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi makes the development even more interesting in that it approximates the logic that has sometimes manifested itself at the national level in challenges to Maliki’s premiership. Conversely, though, there is the example of the Sunni-majority Salahaddin – one of the first governorates to elect a new government after the latest elections – where a governor from a local bloc with a reasonably good relationship to Maliki was confirmed in power despite challenges from more anti-Maliki forces in the various Iraqiyya factions.

What remains are Karbala, Diyala, Babel and Muthanna. It will be interesting to see which of the two tendencies above – consensus or political majority – will prevail. As the table of results so far shows, there is no neat and easy correlation between seat results, political fragmentation and who gets the governorship:


So far, it seems ISCI in particular is finding back to the dexterity in coalition-building that characterised the party in 2005, when relatively modest electoral performance was translated into massive political influence through key positions in local government. That said, ISCI was also the party that got most heavily punished at the next local and national elections (2009 and 2010 respectively), meaning it may not be the biggest catastrophe for Maliki to have fewer incumbent governors come parliamentary elections time in 2014. Perhaps more crucial to the future of his premiership will be the outcome of delayed local elections in Anbar and Nineveh who vote on Thursday 20 June. Here, given the Sunni majorities, Maliki’s stakes are more indirect. However, the extent to which Sunni radicalism prospers in these areas as a spillover from the Syria conflict may be a key factor in Maliki’s chances of forming a viable electoral coalition for 2014.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013 | 9 Comments »

Patterns of Electoral Behaviour in Iraq: The Use of the Personal Vote in the April 2013 Provincial Elections

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 9 May 2013 12:20

Whereas the IHEC press conference announcing the results of Iraq’s 20 April local elections was merely a readout of the names of the winning candidates and their political affiliations, a second batch of useful information, giving the numbers achieved by each candidate, has now been published. This material makes it possible to analyse how the Iraqi electorate uses the “personal vote” option, whereby voters alongside their vote for a particular political entity can indicate their candidate of choice on that slate. When the votes are counted, the pre-set ranking of the candidates done by the party leadership is ignored altogether, and only specific personal votes garnered in the election count as the ordering of candidates on a particular list is done all over again.

Before discussing patterns of electoral behavior, some basic information about how the ballots are cast in an Iraqi election can be useful.Technically speaking, Iraqi voters do not actually receive ballot papers that include the names of the candidates, only the entity names and numbers. Accordingly, in order to make use of the personal vote option, they need to know the number of their preferred candidate and then fill in that candidate’s number after they have checked the box for their party vote.  In theory this can happen in two ways: Either by knowing the candidate’s number beforehand (and remembering it at the voting booth), or by checking a register of all candidates available at the polling station. In practice, most personal votes are probably the result of beforehand knowledge. Electoral propaganda for individual candidates almost invariably includes the key two numbers that voters require, i.e. party list number and candidate number.


Typical Iraqi election poster showing political entity (419) and candidate number (2)

Then, to the actual use of the personal vote in the 20 April 2013 provincial elections. The first point that is worth making is that the personal vote option is indeed being used by the electorate – a lot. The following quick calculations are meant to provide a cross-section of contexts and electorates and show that across parties and governorates, from Iraqiyya to Shiite Islamists and from rural Maysan to the capital Baghdad, a large majority of Iraqi voters indicate their preferred candidate when they vote. Most of the examples indicate above 90% use of the candidate vote, and nowhere is the percentage less than 84%:

Hakim list Maliki list Nujayfi list Sadr list Iraqiyya
Basra 91.5%
Muthanna 98.2% 97.3%
Wasit 89.7% 93.6%
Baghdad 84.1% 84.3%
Salahaddin 97.6% 98.9%


As for the individual results, the following is a list of Iraq’s 15 most popular provincial politicians, indicating personal votes achieved, list and position on list:

1 Khalaf Abd al-Samad 130,862 Basra 419 1 (Basra governor)

2 Salah Salim Abd al-Razzaq 68,895 Baghdad 419 1 (Baghdad governor)

3 Umar Aziz Hussein Salman al-Humayri 52,219 Diyala 458 58  (Diyala governor)

4 Adnan Abad Khudayr 41,006 Najaf 441 1 (Najaf governor)

5 Ali Dayi Lazim 38,605 Maysan 473 1 (Maysan governor)

6 Riyad Nasir Abd al-Razzaq 21,446 Baghdad 444 1

7 Kamil Nasir Sadun al-Zaidi 18,870 Baghdad 419 2 (Baghdad council speaker)

8 Muin al-Kazimi 17,927 Baghdad 419 5 (leading Badr figure)

9 Adil al-Saadi 16,686 Baghdad 419 6 (top candidate Fadila)

10 Muthanna Ali Mahdi 14,225 Diyala 501 3 (Badr)

11 Majid Mahdi Abd al-Abbas 14,147 Basra 411 1

12 Ammar Yusuf Hamud 13,048 Salahaddin 444 1

13 Saad al-Mutallabi 12,604 Baghdad 419 10 (prominent State of Law politician)

14 Muhammad Mahdi al-Saadi 11,502 Diyala 501 1 (Fadila)

15 Ahmad Abd al-Jabbar 11,470 Salahaddin 475 2

Several points are worthy of note here. Firstly, many of these seat winners, especially those with the highest votes, are governors. Presumably, the number one candidates on the various lists have an advantage in terms of the ability of voters to remember who they want to vote for (note though that the Diyala governor humbly put himself at the bottom of his list, only to be promoted to the top with a safe margin by his grateful electorate). But a closer look at the new councils indicate that the personal vote has done more than just provide a bit of symbolic backing for top candidates whose seats were never under threat anyway. Crucially, a very large proportion of the new Iraqi provincial councilors have been promoted through the personal vote results, rising from positions on their party lists where they would not have received seats according to the preset formula decided by party leaderships.

The best measure for seeing the effect of the popular vote is to carefully study that second set of tables issued by IHEC, which ranks candidates strictly after their personal votes. Note how almost all the major lists have very high percentages of candidates that moved forward to high positions due to personal votes they accumulated, mostly with more than 50% of the candidates rising to the top of the lists of vote getters being promoted from positions further down on the list (the main exception being the Sadrist, with somewhat lower rates). This is not the whole story, though. Because of the women’s quota, the eventual seat winners are not strictly the candidates that won the most  votes. Given the requirement that every fourth seat goes to a woman – and that women with a few notable exceptions garnered relatively few personal votes – the women’s quota in Iraq effectively continues to serve as a check on the electorate’s will (and as such often tallies with the interests of party leaderships, the obvious advantages of having higher female representation notwithstanding). The following table shows the number of top-candidate councilors who remained in seat-winning positions also after the personal vote had been counted (first number); councilors that were promoted from non-winning positions due to the popular vote (second number); and finally women promoted through quota arrangements (third number). It should be added that there are probably no more than a couple of women in the second group of candidates that were promoted because they outnumbered other candidates (including men) in the personal vote, the best example probably being Aisha al-Masari of the Nujayfi list in Baghdad, who got 11,400 votes and thus almost made it to the national top 15.

Hakim  list Maliki list Sadr list
Basra 2-2-2 4-8-4 2-0-1
Maysan 1-3-2 2-4-2 3-3-3
Dhi Qar 1-4-2 3-4-3 2-3-0
Muthanna 2-4-1 3-3-2 2-0-1
Qadisiyya 2-2-1 2-4-2 2-1-1
Babel 1-4-2 3-3-2 2-1-1
Najaf 4-1-1 1-3-1 2-0-1
Karbala 2-0-1 3-2-2 3-0-1
Wasit 2-3-2 2-3-2 2-2-1
Baghdad 2-2-2 9-5-6 2-2-1


In sum, the personal vote option, favoured by the Shiite clergy when it was introduced in 2008, remains largely successful in shaking up Iraqi politics. To some extent, the  system was ridiculed when the Sadrists used it to the maximum in the parliamentary elections of 2010 by carefully orchestrating large number of personal votes for several Sadrists candidates who could then advance internally within the Iraqi National Alliance at the expense of other entities who saw their personal votes wasted on top candidates or not used at all. Nonetheless, these latest results show that the personal vote is here to stay in Iraq, and that elite politicians who choose to ignore it may be doing so at their own peril.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Final Results of the Iraqi Provincial Elections 2013

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 4 May 2013 18:05

The Iraqi elections commission IHEC today released the final results of the provincial elections on 20 April. The seat distribution, presented below with figures from 2009 in parentheses, largely confirms the picture that emerged from initial results.


Among the Shiite Islamist parties, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has lost some seats in some governorates but is still the biggest seat winner, with particularly strong positions in the governorate councils of Baghdad and Basra. Despite internal splits, ISCI has done a moderate comeback in several governorates. The Sadrists won back Maysan but otherwise are not making big advances; in Najaf, a local list is the biggest winner, exactly as in 2009.  It is noteworthy that the Shiite parties that ran together in Diyala managed to emerge as the biggest winner with 12 seats; this will certainly be seen by some as an indication of increased sectarian polarization.

With respect to parties associated with Sunni-majority areas, it is noteworthy that the Mutahiddun list headed by the Nujayfi brothers has emerged as the most formidable force nationwide, with more votes than competitors like Salah al-Mutlak and including a very respectable result in Baghdad. In Salahaddin, a local Sunni list emerged as the biggest winner, whereas in Diyala forces associated with Nujayfi and Mutlak joined together, though without beating the pan-Shiite list.

The traditional secular parties have fared poorly. Especially noteworthy is the decline of the Iraqiyya list of Ayyad Allawi, which has now only 2 seats south of Baghdad (Basra and Babel), and which was eclipsed by parties with more pronounced Sunni profiles north of Basra. Similarly, none of the breakaway parties from the Iraqiyya coalition such as Free Iraqiyya or White has achieved particularly good results. Similar to the various alliances associated with the Iraqi communist movement, these parties are reduced to isolated seats in a small number of governorates.

It seems worth mentioning that the Kurds lost a few seats in the two governorates where they competed (Salahaddin and Diyala).

The process of forming coalitions and new local governments now begins. In 2009, this lasted 3 months in total. However, in some governorates negotiations are already underway, with parties in Basra even holding press conferences for the announcement of coalitions and job distributions before the official result was ready! In Shiite-majority provinces, a key question is whether Maliki will this time turn to ISCI rather than to Sadrists as his main partner; in Diyala, there is the possibility that the pan-Shiite list may try to circumvent the biggest Sunni parties to build alliances with the Kurds and smaller Sunni parties. Whichever strategies are chosen, the effects on Iraqi political dynamics are likely to be huge – at the heated national scene as well as in places where the local elections were postponed (Anbar and Nineveh).

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013 | 9 Comments »

IHEC Publishes Partial Results of the Iraqi Provincial Elections

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 26 April 2013 2:02

At the end of a long and dramatic week in Iraq, the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) has released partial results of the local elections based on a count of 87-90% of the vote. At this point there is neither a formal seat distribution nor information relating to the electoral fortunes of individual candidates in accordance with the personal vote option. Also, it should be stressed that as of midnight 25 April, no official IHEC statistics had been published online. Accordingly, the source base for what follows are Iraqi journalistic accounts of the numbers as read out by IHEC at their press conference. The most comprehensive one appears to be from the AIN news agency, but it does include some very obvious errors and numbers that don’t add up, so the following approximate calculations of percentages of votes to the major parties must be taken as nothing more than rough indications:


Among the trends that stand out in this material are the following:

-The relative success of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in defending his strong electoral result from the previous local elections in 2009. Whereas his State of Law coalition has lost some seats in many governorates, it is still the biggest seat-getter almost everywhere in Baghdad and the south. Apart from the capital, Maliki has particularly impressive results in Basra and the far south. Still, the fact that some seats have been lost despite a broader coalition of Shiite parties (Fadila, Badr and the Jaafari wing of the Daawa all ran with Maliki this time) indicates that there has been a certain disadvantage of incumbency at work.

-ISCI, as represented in the Muwatin coalition, has made something of a comeback compared with its dismal performance in 2009. This is most pronounced outside the shrine cities, in provinces like Basra and Wasit. The comeback is all the more impressive given the relatively recent split with Badr, and could perhaps testify to a relatively successful process of reorganisation on the part of ISCI in the wake of the break-up.

-The Sadrists appear to be at a standstill, not making significant progress apart from winning back Maysan and gaining some new seats in Wasit.

-The Mid-Euphrates generally sees higher political fragmentation than the far south of the Shiite-majority areas, with much more room for local lists – including most spectacularly in Najaf where a local list came first.

-The strong performance of the all-Shiite list in Diyala is quite remarkable and possibly a testament to increased sectarian friction in the area. The figures for the Kurdish list in Diyala seem too low in this source and are contradicted by other sources based on earlier counts.

-With respect to the secular and Sunni camp, the single biggest difference with 2009 is the disappearance of the Sunni Islamist Tawafuq coalition, whose members are this time enrolled in various factions of the Iraqiyya movement, including most prominently Mutahhidun headed by Usama al-Nujayfi.

-In Baghdad, Nujayfi’s Mutahhidun has emerged as the second biggest list, thus inheriting the role of Tawafuq and to some extent marginalising the mainline Iraqiyya faction on its own home turf.

-In the other Sunni-majority governorates where elections are held – Diyala and Salahhadin – it is noteworthy that there is also considerable fragmentation and local lists have greater success than Allawi. In Salahaddin, Jamahir al-Iraqiyya was the biggest winner, whereas in Diyala, Iraqiyyat Diyala came first. The latter reportedly includes people closer to the Mutlak and Nujayfi camps.

It is now expected that final results will be published in two weeks, when the complete seat configuration as well as the identity of each new councillor will be known. At that point, the process of forming new local governments across Iraq can also begin.

Posted in Iraq local elections 2013 | 11 Comments »

Patterns of Reinstatement in the Final Version of Iraq’s Local Elections Lists

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:54

Whereas the previous list of candidates for Iraq’s 20 April local elections had 8,099 names, the updated list published today has 8,138 names, meaning 39 more candidates have been approved following appeals processes, including de-Baathification appeals.

The changes are too small for elaborate statistical analysis similar to the one that was possible for the initial list, but the revised table of excluded candidates does show the same tendencies as regards conflicts between political entities and the elections commission IHEC as before the appeals process. The Sunni-majority governorates have been subjected to most exclusion of candidates, and the Iraqiyya list is also the main casualty. It is noteworthy, though, that both Saleh al-Mutlak and Usama al-Nujayfi have been somewhat more successful with their appeals than Ayyad Allawi’s mainline Iraqiyya list. Some symbolically important appeals successes include the reinstatement of the top candidate of the Mutlak list in Baghdad and number 3 of Nujayfi in Nineveh. Conversely the top candidate of Iraqiyya in Anbar and its number 5 in Nineveh and number 6 in Karbala remain excluded. Maliki had only problem with a single candidate (in Basra); he was reinstated.


Since Mutlak and Nujayfi had relatively few candidates excluded in the first place, it is perhaps not worthwhile to push this finding too far. Politically, of course, Mutlak is at the moment engaging with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by returning to cabinet (alongside the Hall faction), whreas Nujayfi remains in opposition to Maliki (Iraqiyya has reportedly brought the delay of local elections in Nineveh and Anbar to the attention of the federal supreme court). Nonetheless, Mutlak’s relative success in the reinstatement round along with his return to cabinet yesterday following his role in the recent passage of the annual budget in parliament with Maliki’s first “political majority” triumph of significance (the slim majority of 168 reportedly also included Free Iraqiyya and White among the Iraqiyya breakaway factions) are indicators of the continuing potential for cooperation between him and Maliki. Whereas many voices in Washington are critical of the recent passage of the budget in parliament because it was done in opposition to the Kurds, the fact that Mutlak now returns to cabinet in the middle of a crisis between Maliki and the Sadrists is actually not the worst thing that could happen in Iraqi politics.

Still, with the decision by Maliki to run all-Shiite lists in the northern governorates, the chances for there to be much positive bridge-building towards people like Mutlak in the aftermath of the elections, as to some extent happened in 2009, remain limited. That in turn means that Maliki remains faced with the challenge of brining Sunni and secular partners more decisively into his on coalition if he wishes to persevere with the political majority project he so often likes to mention.

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The Question of the Legality of the Delay of the Iraqi Local Elections in Anbar and Nineveh

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 22 March 2013 6:05

Beyond the interesting political dynamics behind the recently declared delay in local elections in Anbar and Nineveh, an even more pertinent issue is beginning to receive some attention in Iraq: Is the delay legal?

The relevant law in this case is the local elections law from 2008. And the relevant article 46 makes the following general points:

–          Cabinet decides the elections date based on a proposal from the elections commission.

–          The elections must be held on a single day.

–          If elections are delayed, current provincial councils remain in power until new ones are elected.

Article 49 goes on to stipulate that no measures that contradict this law are permitted.


A prudent reading of this suggests the local elections law specifically envisions delay as a distinct possibility, but that such a delay should apply throughout Iraq. Partial delays seem impermissible, which is easy to understand given the legacy of heavily manipulated multi-stage elections in Iraq and the broader Middle East during the European mandate period.

The law also seems to indicate the initiative should come from the elections commission. In practice, questions related to the security of the elections are known to have been delegated to a special security committee with joint membership of some IHEC board members as well as representatives of the interior ministry. The head of that committee is said to be Aydan Khaled, an interior ministry official who got into some trouble over the Hashemi affair and at one point last year was rumoured to have fled to Turkey and/or given early retirement. He now appears to be back in business (and is presumably once more friendly with Maliki), although it is unclear whether the security committee or the cabinet that was the driving force behind the Anbar and Nineveh postponement.

In any case, the decision by the Iraqi cabinet on a delay limited to particular governorates seems illegal. It would be helpful if critics of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spent more time complaining these specific transgressions to the federal supreme court – thereby forcing the court to at least speak its mind publicly – and devoted less attention to federalism schemes or to the arithmetic of the no confidence votes they plan all the time, but rarely bring to the phase of implementation.

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