Iraq’s Election Commission announced that January 11 was the deadline to register alliances for the 2018 balloting. As usual, there were several new coalitions, largely based upon the latest rivalries.
On the Kurdish side, the three opposition parties Change, the Kurdistan Islamic Group and the new Democracy and Justice party headed by Barham Salah formed Nishtiman, Homeland. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) wanted all the Kurdish parties to run together, but that didn’t happen. All them used to be in a coalition government in Kurdistan, but when President Massoud Barzani refused to leave office in 2015, the KDP blocked the Change speaker of parliament from entering Irbil, and dismissed all the party’s ministers. Afterward Change and the two Islamic parties went into the opposition, although the Islamic Union has since tried to make up with the KDP and PUK. They remained divided over the September 2017 independence referendum. Those differences explain who will run with who.
The Sunni parties formed two big coalitions. One was made up of Speaker of Parliament Salim Jabouri, Vice President Iyad Allawi and Salah al-Mutlaq. They represent the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraqiya, and Arabiya respectively. The other one consisted of Vice President Osama Nujafi of Mutahidun/Unity, Jamal Karbuli of the Solution List, and businessman Khamis Khanjar of the Dignity Party. This represented the divide within the Sunni elite. Jabouri for example, has been aligned with Prime Minister Haidar Abadi and championed working with the central government. Nujafi on the other hand, has pushed Sunni regionalism, and criticized Abadi. All these parties have gone back and forth joining with each other and then breaking apart, and this year was no different.
Finally, the Shiites witnessed some new alignments as well. First, Iraqi media has been reporting for months that the Dawa Party would split in two with Prime Minister Abadi and Vice President Nouri al-Maliki running separate lists. Apparently, the party will remain as one, but the two will have their own parties. Abadi’s new party is called Conquest. Maliki may continue to run under State of Law. The Supreme Council said it would ally with Abadi, while its former leader Ammar Hakim’s Hikmat/Wisdom, would go it alone. Moqtada al-Sadr has created a new party as well and has aligned with the Communists, as the two have been working together for over a year now organizing protests demanding reforms. Finally, 20 pro-Iran Hashd factions created Fatah, led by Badr’s Hadi Amiri. Supposedly it was in talks to run with Abadi’s Conquest, but they could not come to an agreement. The prime minister said that no armed groups could take part in the elections, so the Hashd leaders resigned from their units so they could run in the balloting. Again, like all the other communities, the Shiites have been split by political rivalries and arguments. In 2005, they all ran together, but since then have gone in different elections, and then united when it came time to form a new government. This time, the Hashd will be participating, which will cut into the traditional parties’ base. Maliki was originally hoping that they would go with him as they are all backed by Iran. However, the negotiations with Abadi show that the Hashd are no longer in Maliki’s corner. His latest moves, such as trying to reconcile with the Kurds has cost him support. The Hashd groups have also been very critical of the premier since he is pro-western, but again, the two sides were willing to entertain an alliance. This was just another example of how short sighted Iraq’s parties are. Despite having completely different visions, they were open to working with each other to gain in this year’s election.
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