Iraq’s last three elections for parliament were characterized by large alliances running for office. In 2005 for example all the religious Shiite parties and some smaller entities ran together as the United Iraqi Alliance and walked away with the most seats in the two votes held that year. Now Iraqi politics appear to be going through a progression as some major players have announced that they will run alone in the 2014 balloting. This might be a positive change for the country as lists are attempting to form their own individual identity rather than running in large coalitions where many different parties with different agendas held loose and often unwieldy alliances.
Two major lists from the 2010 vote, and perhaps a third have broken up. In the last parliamentary election there were four large coalitions that collected the vast majority of votes. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had his State of Law led by his Dawa and Deputy Premier Hussein Shahristani’s Independents. The Sadrists and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) formed the National Alliance. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were part of the Kurdish Alliance. Finally Iyad Allawi, Tariq Hashemi, Rafi Issawi, Osama and Atheel Nujafi, Saleh al-Mutlaq and others created the Iraqi National Movement (INM). The National Alliance and the National Movement are now no more, there have been reports that the Independents might leave State of Law, while the Kurdish parties are debating whether to run together or separately. Back in October 2013, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List said that it would run alone in 2014. That was just stating the obvious as the INM had already come apart earlier in the year. Now Parliament Speaker Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun, Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, and Jamal Karbuli’s Solution Movement will all run separately. In November, a spokesman for the Supreme Council and a parliamentarian from the Sadr bloc separately announced that they would be independent parties in 2014 marking the end of their National Alliance. Both claimed that the new electoral law did not favor large lists, and that’s what led to their decision. After the 2013 provincial vote the Sadrists claimed they had a strategic alliance with ISCI that would continue into next year’s election. That came after the two worked together to depose State of Law from several provinces such as Basra and Baghdad. Those two will likely cooperate after the election, but beforehand they will be separate. Maliki’s list may split as well. There was a report that Shahristani’s Independents is considering running separately. That party wants more seats, but State of Law lost standing in the 2013 election, which is making the Independents reconsider its alliance. At the same time, the Badr Organization is going to maintain its ties with Maliki. Badr joined State of Law for this year’s balloting. Finally, there are the Kurdish parties, which are trying to go in the other direction. In 2010 the PUK and KDP maintained their traditional alliance, but the three opposition parties, the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group went it alone. Now the KDP and PUK are trying to get them to all compete together. The Islamic Group has expressed tentative support for the idea saying that all the Kurdish parties need to run together in provinces with disputed areas like Tamim otherwise the Kurdish vote would be split. The Change List and Islamic Union however have accused the PUK and KDP of cheating in the 2013 election, and therefore are standoffish on any grand Kurdish list. That might mean the Kurdish Alliance is the only surviving major list left in 2014, but it will not be expanding. If this trend continues it will be an important change for Iraqi politics. Having these large lists was only meant to pool votes to gain power rather than bringing together like-minded parties. Dawa, the Supreme Council, and the Sadrists all had opposing views yet they joined together in 2005 under the United Alliance. Likewise the PUK and KDP still have different opinions about the future of Kurdistan and the country in general yet they are trying to keep up a united front for 2014. At the minimum parties running alone will provide the public with more choices next year.
Iraq’s government is still developing. At first, many divergent parties banded together usually on ethnosectarian grounds to get as many votes as possible. Now the lists appear to be going in the other direction. Many parties are still personal vehicles for their leaders rather than real political organizations, but developing their own individual messages and programs is an important change. More importantly there is no longer one large Shiite list, one large Sunni list, one large Kurdish list. Now there’s State of Law, the Sadrists, the Supreme Council, Fadhila, Mutahidun, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the Iraqi National List, the Change List, etc. to all pick from. That doesn’t mean communal based politics is dead, but it is a step away from it, which can only be a positive for the country’s future.
Ahmed, Hevidar, “Kurdish Parties Divided Over Fighting Iraqi Elections as Single Bloc,” Rudaw, 11/12/13
AIN, “Sadr confirms: “No for granting Maliki 3rd term,”” 11/12/13
- “Shihristani’s bloc discusses separating from Maliki’s Alliance next elections,” 11/13/13
Asharq Al-Awsat, “Iraq: Sadr and Hakim form new “strategic” alliance,” 7/11/13
- “Sadr: Terrorism rules Iraq,” 10/14/13
Habib, Mustafa, “the next leader of iraq? former extremist and Islamic cleric the most likely candidates,” Niqash, 11/7/13
Jawad, Haider Ali, “Muqtada al-Sadr criticized Maliki’s nomination for a third term, saying “I seek refuge with Allah,”” Buratha News, 10/27/13
National Iraqi News Agency, “Ahrar bloc will enter individually in all provinces in the upcoming parliamentary elections,” 11/16/13
- “Ahrar MP warns from nominating Maliki for a third term,” 8/6/13
- “Citizen bloc intends to enter the upcoming parliamentary elections in an individual list,” 11/16/13
- “Sadr explains that his refusal to renew the mandate of a third term for al-maliki does not include members of his party,” 11/16/13
Radio Nawa, “Iraqi List decides to contest the next parliamentary elections alone,” 10/19/13
Al Rafidayn, “Sadrists and coalition with state of law ‘impossible’ if insist on Maliki third term,” 9/3/13
- “Source: Allawi fails to revive his ‘Sunni’ alliances .. The agreement with the ‘Shiite Islamists’ weak,” 9/2/13
Shafaq News, “Ameri’s bloc resolves its electoral decision by allying with State of law,” 11/16/13