Saturday, February 21, 2009

Possible Ruling Coalitions In The Provinces

Now that Iraq’s Election Commission has announced the final results and seat allocations the winning parties have two weeks to form coalitions to rule. They need 51% of the seats to appoint the governor, deputy governor, head of council, and the provincial police chief. Only in Basra and Ninewa did the victors, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Al-Hadbaa List respectively, gain enough seats to have outright majorities. Three possible set of partners have already been reported. First, Moqtada al-Sadr has told his followers to consult with Maliki’s State of Law. The Awakening of Iraq and Independents has formed an alliance with Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraq National Project. Finally, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Al-Mihrab Martyr List is talking with Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List.

If these deals work out Maliki’s list could have majorities in Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Maysan, and Wasit. The Awakening would also rule Anbar. In Karbala, Muthanna, Najaf, and Qadisiyah the State of Law and the Sadrists would have to bring in one more party to rule. Babil, Diyala, and especially Salahaddin are much more fragmented, especially the last one, and will take several parties to come together to run those.

Overall, the elections have revealed three things about the current state of Iraqi politics. First, the Dawa has surpassed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) as the predominate Shiite party. Second, the Kurds’ loss of control of Ninewa and Salahaddin shows their declining position within the country. They once had a winning combination with the SIIC, but after both lost in the provincials their hopes of greater federalism is probably dead. The Kurds will be coming under increasing pressure to give up their hopes of annexing territories outside of Kurdistan as a result. Finally, the vote showed that Sunni politics is as fragmented as ever. The Iraqi Islamic Party ran in 2005 despite the Sunni boycott, gaining a head start on their competitors. This time they will have to form coalitions with newer parties to rule in Diyala and Salahaddin, and lost control of Anbar.

Provinces Currently With Majorities

Basra: Maliki’s State of Law 20 of 30 seats
Ninewa: Al-Hadbaa 19 of 37 seats

Possible Ruling Coalitions

Anbar: Sheikh Abu Risha’s Awakening of Iraq and Independents – 8 seats plus parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraq National Project – 6 seats. Total of 14 of 29 seats
Baghdad: Maliki’s State of Law – 28 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 5 seats. Total of 33 of 57 seats
Dhi Qar: Maliki’s State of Law – 13 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 7 seats. Total of 20 of 31 seats
Maysan: Maliki’s State of Law – 8 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 7 seats. Total of 15 of 27 seats
Wasit: Maliki’s State of Law – 13 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 3 seats. Total of 20 of 28 seats

Provinces Up In The Air

: State of Law – 8 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 3 seats. Needs five more seats for majority of 16 of 30 seats
Diyala: Iraqi Accordance Front – 9 seats. Needs six more seats for majority of 15 of 29 seats
Karbala: Youssef al-Habboubi – 1 seat plus Maliki’s State of Law – 9 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 4 seats. Needs one more seat for majority of 14 of 27 seats
Muthanna: Maliki’s State of Law – 5 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 2 seats. Needs seven more seats for majority of 14 of 26 seats
Najaf: Maliki’s State of Law – 7 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 6 seats. Needs two more seats for majority of 15 of 28 seats
Qadisiyah: Maliki’s State of Law – 11 seats plus Sadr’s Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – 2 seats. Needs two more seats for majority of 15 of 28 seats
Salahaddin: Iraqi Accordance Front – 5 seats. Needs ten seats for majority of 15 of 28 seats


Agence France Presse, “Sadr renews idea of local alliances with Iraq PM,” 2/20/09

Alsumaria, “Iraq parties form alliances after elections,” 2/13/09

Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Fadel, Leila, “Volatile Anbar province a test of Iraq’s future,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/17/09

Rubin, Alissa, “Prime Minister’s Party Wins in Iraqi Vote but Will Need to Form Coalitions,” New York Times, 2/6/09

Visser, Reidar, “The Provincial Elections: The Seat Allocation Is Official and the Coalition-Forming Process Begins,”, 2/19/09


Anonymous said...

I was taken aback a bit by your comment about the Kurds' position in the country declining and maybe having to give up on their hopes for federalism, if not more.

You seem to be suggesting that Iraq can be governed from the center and that a strong central government can develop that is capable of providing services and security throughout the country.

Would you say that it will soon be possible for a Shi'ite to walk the streets of Anbar province, providing security as a member of a national army or police force? Can you picture a Sunni patroling any street in Kurdistan? What about a Kurd policing the suburbs of Baghdad?

I guess what I'm asking is this - is Iraq anywhere near being ready for a strong central government or does the only hope for political reconciliation lie down the path toward some sort of least for the near to medium term?

Joel Wing said...

Maliki is trying as hard as possible to build up the power of the central government. Of course that benefits him as he's its leader. There are various other parties that believe in the same thing as well such as the Sadrists and the Iraqi National List, but they have no real power in the government.

Iraq's government is still a work in progress. There are no real checks or balances on the prime minister from the parliament or the provinces. He's used the security forces against his opponents across the country, and formed Tribal Support Councils that have greatly upset some parties but they can't do anything about it.

Iraqi nationalism is also returning, and that supports a strong Baghdad. At the same time, it's pretty anti-Kurdish.

I don't think federalism has ever been that popular amongst Iraqis, at least the Arab majority. The SIIC and Kurds were the only ones pushing for that, and the Kurds were able to move forward with that and create facts on the ground when the government was weak, but now that Maliki is in the ascendancy I think they'll begin losing out.

Regarding your comment about different sects/ethnicities providing security in different parts of the country. Kurds and Shiites are already providing security throughout different parts of the country. Kurds provide a lot of the security inside the Green Zone. There are Shiite police forces all over Sunni areas. That still causes some tensions. There are however, only Kurds doing security inside of Kurdistan. They would never allow Arabs in there. In fact the Kurdistan Regional Government recently said that anyone that would work with a Maliki Tribal Support Council in Kurdistan would be considered a traitor. That shows you the divisions that still remain in the country.

If you read my previous post on the on going dispute between Kurdistan and Baghdad, I argued that down the road the Kurds will probably begin pushing for independence because they can't achieve any of their goals anymore, annex Kirkuk, annex areas of Diyala, Salahaddin, and Ninewa, export their own oil, etc., with things progressing the way they are towards centralism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response, motown.

I still think that federalism, as outlined in Iraq's constitution - at least at this point in Iraq's history - is the only viable option that will keep Iraq stable and united as US forces inevitably withdraw.

In any event, there are many miles to go to reach some sort of power-sharing arrangement at the national level between Iraq's major groups and factions, including some important constitutional amendments that would be extremely difficult to achieve under the most benign conditions, let alone under a foreign occupation.

Would you agree that Iraq does not yet have the capacity to provide for its own security throughout the country and probably won't develop that full capacity within the time period for US withdrawal?

If we can agree that is where we stand, then I would have to say that Vice President Biden's Iraq strategy is still in play and that federalism will be the order of the day. Otherwise, I can see the country slipping back toward civil war as US troops leave.

Joel Wing said...

Again, outside of the Supreme Council leader ship and the Kurds, no one in Iraq seems to want federalism. There's never been an Iraqi opinion poll that shows Iraqis are for federalsim for example.

This is from the National Media Center, which is run by the government. It's from Jan. 2009:

Ideas on federalism
Opposed 72%
Kurds in favor of 78%
Opposed to partition of country 80%
Opposed to autonomy for Basra 80%
Basrans opposed to autonomy for the province 94%

This is from the independent Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies in the winter of 2008:

What form of federalism should Iraq have?

Strong government in Baghdad 69.9%
More authority in provinces 17.7%
Don’t know 8.0%
No answer 4.4%

There are others from 2008 and 2007 that show basically the same results.

In early Jan. 09 there was also a petition to have a vote on a federal region for Basra and it hardly got any support as well. There were only able to get 2% of the population to sign up for the idea.

Having the U.S. push for it, I would think, would be greatly resented by Iraqis and be another example of a foreign country trying to impose its will on Iraq.

As far as slipping back into a sectarian civil war, I think those days are over. I don't think Iraqis want that anymore and its done. The big dispute will be between the Kurds and Arabs now, and between Maliki and his opponents. The latter has been largely political, the question is whether the former will stay so.

Last point, the Kurds already have their own federal region, their own parliament, their own security force. They get their money from Baghdad however, and can't export their own oil (but they do illegally). The problem is the Kurds want more. Namely to export oil, to earn their own revenues, and most importantly to expand southwards. Because they want more than what current federalism entails is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be as optimistic as you seem to be.

You didn't comment on whether or not Iraqis are capable of providing their own security. If they were - and I don't beleive they are anywhere near that point - then US forces should withdraw now.

As far as federalism is concerned and, for that matter, polls in Iraq...I have no faith that the latter can tell us what the Iraqis really think...especially on something as sensitive as federalism under the yolk of occupation. For example, many Iraqis equate federalism with partition (thanks in no small part to the spurious actions of the Bush administration through the US Embassy in Baghdad to sabatoge the Biden strategy)...if I was an Iraqi, I'd be against the break-up and carving up of my country, too!

However, allow me to make one point perfectly clear - no one that I know, least of all VP Biden - has ever proposed "partition" for Iraq, and rightly so. The Biden strategy, in fact, was - and still is, I believe - the best hope for avoiding partition and the total fragmentation of the country...despite a seemingly successful round of provincial elections.

And, according to my favorite 'think tank', the International Crisis Group, most Iraqis in Basra governorate favor some form of "administrative federalism". When Senator Biden was meeting with Iraq's sectarian leaders on a regular basis (I, for one, miss the days when he could do that, just to let you know!)the only one who was not on board with the essential elements of his strategy was Muqtada al Sadr, for reasons that are not too difficult to understand.

The irony here, for me, is that the only political progress Iraq seems to be making is at the local level which is what 'federalism' is all about!

All I know is that there has been little, if any, progress toward political reconciliation at the national level, including the equitable sharing of oil revenues AND a Hydrocarbon Law. Add to this the fact that Iraqis are as yet unable to provide for their own security and you have a recipe for two outcomes - either US forces will be in Iraq for a very, very long time to come or Iraq is headed on a course toward continued and increasing sectarian violence...or both, God forbid.

Anyway, I guess time will tell and I really look forward to further discussion and debate with you as the situation unfolds.


Joel Wing said...

1) Iraqi security forces
Iraqis can't defend their country right now and won't be able to for years. I actually think they could probably keep up their operations against the insurgency after a U.S. withdrawal. Now that doesn't mean they would win anytime soon, but I think they could maintain the current situation.

2) U.S. presence
When I first started researching about Iraq back in 2002 I thought the U.S. would be in the country for at least 10 years because I thought we'd screw things up based upon what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq's fragile balance between sects. Now that might be shortsighted. The Obama administration wants to pull out combat troops but will still leave a large contingent behind for training and overwatch.

If you read excerpts from Tom Ricks new book or his latest articles in the Wash Po. you'll see that the point of the Surge was to create some success on the military front so that Congress could be convinced to allow troops to stay long term while Iraq's political system could stabilize. That seems to have worked as Congress stopped talking about withdrawals in 2007.

Now I think U.S. will be there for longer than 10 years. When Pres. Bush said he wanted to make Iraq like S. Korea he might've been right.

3) Iraqis and federalism
You don't have to look at polls if you don't want to. Basra had two petitions in recent months on making it a federal region. The first was a petition to ok the idea in general. The second was to have a referendum on the matter. The first petition only got a little more than 2% of the voting population. The second one got even less. Now you can argue that the proponents of this idea didn't have a very good time getting their message out, and went up against most of the major political parties, but all they needed was 10% of voters to sign the second petition for the vote, and they got even fewer signatures than the first petition.

4) Iraqi violence
Insurgents kill Shiite pilgrims every single religious holiday. There's been no large backlash each time as there was before during the sectarian civil war. Maliki also went after the Sons of Iraq in Diyala, and to a lesser degree the ones in Baghdad, arresting over a hundred of them and making a bunch more flee, and that didn't lead to an increase in violence.

I think violence has changed to being more political. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been greatly degraded after the Sunnis largely turned against them. Now the violence is mostly concentrated to Ninewa and Salahaddin where the motivator is the Arab-Kurdish divide, Diyala where you have Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish problems, and Baghdad which is the seat of power. Now I don't believe Iraq will suddenly be peaceful anytime soon. I think there will continue to be attacks, which are now about 1,100 a month, into the foreseable future, but they won't be so much about sect like they were before, and won't be as widespread.

The big question is whether the recent election will have any impact. They could help to quell things in places like Diyala and Salahaddin, but could make them worse in Ninewa because of who won. I don't think it'll do much in Baghdad however.

If there was a big uptake in violence in the future I think it would be between Arabs and Kurds.

5) Thanks for the lively and intelligence discussion. I really appreciate the comments.

AndrewSshi said...

Motown, I have a quick comment on your statement that these days the big divide is Arab/Kurd. It seems to me that Mosul still has a pretty sizable portion of Arabs who are not at all keen on Maliki and not entirely reconciled to the end of the Ba'ath party. Now, Maliki has been working to woo these folks for a while now, but it seems to me to still be very much an open question if he can get them to sign on with a government in Baghdad that's run by Dawa (and other folks equally uncongenial to unreconciled Ba'athists).

Joel Wing said...

Mosul remains probably the last insurgent stronghold left in Iraq. And I agree, there are definitely a bunch of people there that do not want to join the political process. (See that article I wrote about all the candidates and politicians killed there before and after the election). At the same time, I think one of the reasons why they've been able to hold on there is because the Arab animosity towards the Kurds that have run the place for basically the entire time since the U.S. invasion with a short break when Petraeus' and the 101st were there. The insurgents have fashioned themselves as the Arab protectors against the Kurds. That's why the results of the election will be interesting to watch because the anti-Kurdish Al-Hadbaa won a straight majority. Will they be able to get more Arabs to join with them in a political struggle against the Kurds or will it just make things worse? So I still think the Arab-Kurd divide is the big issue there, and some insurgents have been able to manipulate that to their own ends for support.

With regards to Maliki, he's show great ability to use the carrot and stick against his opponents. Today there's a story that he's launched a new operation in Mosul, the second by himself. At the same time he's tried to play the Arab nationalist card there to get the population to join with him against the Kurds. I don't know how that will play out, but again I think it shows that the Arab-Kurd issue is the main one in Ninewa.

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