Thursday, May 22, 2014

Will Iraq’s Prime Minister Gain A 3rd Term?

Iraq’s 2014 parliamentary elections were all about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Most of the major lists explicitly ran against the premier. Those included Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar/Liberals, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq’s (ISCI) Mowatin/Citizen’s Alliance, Speaker Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun/Uniters, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Iyad Allawi’s Wataniya/Nationalist Coalition. Since the vote on April 30 all of those parties have said Maliki staying in office was a redline, and have talked about forming a government of their own. The problem is that these parties have never been able to stay united opening opportunities for the prime minister to split them apart.

Maliki’s State of Law (SOL) was the undisputed winner of the 2014 balloting. His list came away with 95 seats, up from 89 in 2010. Given all the opposition he was facing it was notable that he was able to make a slight gain. After that Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar, and his two other parties he ran received 34 seats down from 39 in 2010. ISCI won 31 up from 20, Speaker Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun got 27, President Massoud Barzani’s KDP’s finished with 25 down from 28, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) got 21 up from 14, Iyad Allawi’s Wataniya had 21 down from 31, Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Arabiya got 11, a six seat increase. Goran/Change won 9 up from 7, Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Trend finished with 6 up from 1, Fadhila/Virtue got 6 seats down from 7. The new Iraq Coalition and Civilian Democratic Alliance won 5 and 4 seats respectively. Finally the Kurdish Islamist parties the Kurdistan Islamic Union got 4 seats and the Kurdistan Islamic Group 3, with the latter losing one seat from 2010.

Parliamentary Election Results 2010 vs 2014

State of Law
ISCI + Iraqi National Congress/Mowatin
20 + 1
National Reform Trend
Iraq Coalition
Civil Democratic Alliance
Kurdistan Islamic Union
Kurdistan Islamic Group
(2014 results Via Akiko Yoshioka, Senior Researcher at Institute of Energy Economics Japan)

Maliki’s opponents have all said they would not allow him another term. May 21 for example, President Barzani allegedly hosted a meeting with Iyad Allawi and the Supreme Council’s Adel Abdul Mahdi to discuss forming an alliance against the premier. If all the opponents actually came together they would have 170 seats, five more than is required to form a new government. The problem as ever is that this is a loose and fractious coalition. Mutahidun for example is proposing a grand Sunni alliance made up of itself, Allawi’s Nationalists and Mutlaq’s Arabiya. The problem is that Mutlaq has been open to working with Maliki in the past and may be so in the future. Another issue is that the only thing holding these parties together is their hatred of the prime minister. Otherwise they have different views on policy. For example, the Sadrists and Supreme Council believe in the central government controlling oil exports, while the Kurdish parties want to be able to export on their own while still agreeing to revenue sharing with Baghdad. This time around however, Maliki might have made these parties so mad at him that they may be able to overcome their differences and maintain their unity enough to push him out. That will be far in the future as the government formation process may take up to a year. In the meantime the lists are stuck in the complaints phase with most of the anti-Maliki factions claiming that he cheated. After the Election Commission deals with each of these accusations, the lists will then move into the negotiation phase. That provides plenty of time for Maliki to persuade and cajole these lists to join him instead.

While many Iraq observers believe that the prime minister’s 90 plus seats has guaranteed him another term it doesn’t appear as clear-cut as that. His opponents have enough seats to make a government. Iraqi politics is never that easy however. There are still months of talks lying ahead during which Maliki’s opposition will have to show staying power otherwise he will play divide and conquer with them as he has done in the past. In 2012 for instance there was a no confidence move against the premier, but the Sadrists pulled out and the effort failed. In those two years the dislike and distrust in the prime minister has grown. The question is, is that enough to make a new government? Only time will tell.


Abbas, Mushreq, “The uncertain prospects for an Iraqi ‘Sunni Alliance,’” Al Monitor, 5/13/14

Al Rafidayn, “Barzani sponsors a secret meeting with Allawi and paints a role for the dagger to finance front against state of law,” 5/21/14


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks for your post. Under Maliki’s umbrella two terrorist groups have been participating in the general elections: League of the Righteous and Bader organization, both of them are known by their sectarian atrocities against Iraqi population (now even fighting in Syria both) before and now and against American troops before. Despite that American administration along with Syrian and Iran has decided give full support to Maliki providing him advanced weapons and intelligence with the excuse of the most important now is defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq. Do you think Obama administration will support again Maliki for a new 3rd term in office?

Joel Wing said...

The Obama administration has tried to put Iraq on the back burner. It's only recently with the re-birth of the insurgency that Washington has tried to re-engage with Baghdad. That being said I don't believe that it will pick sides in this year's election. Rather it will probably try to be a neutral broker in the protracted negotiations to form a new Iraqi government.

Ryan Rhodes said...

Excellent table! From this view, we can see almost the full story of Iraq's election.

As of today, the Wikipedia page for the 2014 election has a similar chart. It's showing Nujaifi's faction losing 14 seats from 42 before to 28 after.

Reidar Visser has Amiri's faction with 18. How many did they have before? Wikipedia says 8. Kirk Sowell has Shahristani's faction with 24 to Maliki's 23, but Visser seems to think Shahristani finished with less.

This is interesting because if you break State of Law out into the four main factions, Maliki, Shahristani, Amiri, and Khozaei, and if you compare them to the four largest factions in the opposition, Sadr, Hakim, Nujaifi, and Barzani, all four of the opposition factions are larger. Even Allawi and Talabani, the opposition's fourth and fifth largest factions, are larger than all but the top two factions within State of Law, Maliki and Shahristani.

It's still not clear what happened before and after with the various sahwa factions. This chart only shows Iraq coalition, and I have a general idea of the shift in seats between the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd alliances, but I would like to see a chart with State of Law broken out into factions with before and after figures in order to understand where Allawi's Iraqiya seats went.

Joel Wing said...

I haven't had time to go through the IHEC results myself at all. I've been far too busy with work and doing my regular reading of Iraqi papers so far now I've had to rely upon others' breakdowns.