Sunday, April 19, 2009

Old And New Alliances Argue Over Control Of Diyala Provincial Council

On April 11, 2009 the new provincial council in Diyala named Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah governor. He received 17 out of 29 votes. Taleb Mohammed Hassan of the Kurdistan Alliance was made head of the council. Four losing lists, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, former Prime Minister Iyad Alawi’s Iraqi National List, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Reform Movement boycotted their election. They are also going to court to contest the elections. These four diverse groups that include Sunnis and Shiites, Iraqi exiles and former Baathists represent the possible face of a new alliance for the upcoming parliamentary elections planned for the end of the year. In Diyala they are taking on a coalition of Iraqi Accordance Front, the Kurds, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which have been working together since 2007. This struggle represents a clash of old and new alliances for not only control of Diyala, but possibly for the country.

When the results of the January 2009 provincial elections were announced the Iraqi Accordance Front led by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s Iraqi Islamic Party came out the winners. They received 9 of 29 seats on Diyala’s provincial council followed by Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project List with six, the Kurdish Alliance with six, Allawi’s Iraqi National List with three, Maliki’s State of Law with two, the Supreme Council with two, and Jaafari’s National Reform Party with one.

Results of January 2009 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 29 seats total
1. Iraqi Accordance Front - Hashemi: 9
2. Iraqi National Project – al-Mutlaq: 6
2. Kurdish Alliance: 6
4. Iraqi National List - Allawi: 3
5. State of Law - Maliki: 2
5. Diyala Coalition – SIIC: 2
7. National Reform Party – Jaafari: 1

This was a marked change from the 2005 elections when the Sunnis boycotted. Then a coalition of the Supreme Council and the Dawa party came in first with 20 of 41 seats, followed by the Iraqi Islamic Party with 14, and the Kurds with seven.

Results of January 2005 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 41 seats total
Coalition of Islamic and National Forces in Diyala (SIIC & Dawa): 20
Iraqi Islamic Party – Hashemi: 14
Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition Diyala Governorate – Kurds: 7

The Sunni majority was able to assert themselves in the 2009 balloting in Diyala, although their votes were spread out over several parties. The Kurds, who reside in the northern section of the province, were able to largely hold onto their power on the council, while the Shiites came out the losers. Despite these changes however, the old alliance of the Accordance Front, Kurds, and SIIC were able to push through their candidate for governor. These three parties make up three-quarters of the governing alliance in parliament behind Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Supreme Council and Kurds have a long-standing relationship, and when the Accordance Front rejoined the government in 2008 after a boycott, they became a triumvirate.

By February 2009 the Accordance Front and Kurdish Alliance had cut a deal to divide up the top posts in Diyala. That drew the ire of the losing parties. On March 1 for example, thousands of their followers protested the election results in two cities in the province. Some 10,000 people were reportedly out in the streets. They were organized by the Diyala Support Council, a group formed by Maliki’s government to garner tribal support and divide the Sunni Sons of Iraq in the province. The protestors called for new elections and for the State of Law List and others not to participate in the new council. Shiites also claimed that the Election Commission was controlled by Kurds and Sunnis, and denied them votes.

Perhaps coincidently, but perhaps not, on the first day that the new council was supposed to be seated on April 6, police sent by Baghdad tried to raid the council building. They had six arrest warrants accusing new members of the council with links to the insurgency, displacing people, and murder. No names were mentioned or which parties they were attached to. U.S. forces stopped the police however. This led to more protests.

The dispute in Diyala is a microcosm of new political divisions occurring in Iraq after the provincial elections. As reported before, Maliki is trying to forge a new ruling coalition. The Prime Minister was originally put into office as a compromise candidate between the Sadrists and Supreme Council. He was supported by the Iraqi United Alliance that included the Dawa, the SIIC, the Sadrists, the Fadhila Party, and Shiite independents, plus the Kurds and the Iraqi Accordance Front. Now Maliki is abandoning those parties for a new mix. In Diyala his State of Law List is working with Saleh Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Iraqi Reform Movement, all of which are protesting the new council. Maliki has also talked with the Sadrists in other parts of the country. The reason for this change is because Maliki has a different vision for the country and different goals from his former supporters. The SIIC and Kurds support a weak central government, federalism, and autonomy on oil deals. The Prime Minister on the other hand, wants a strong government based in Baghdad with him at its head. He is wrapping his campaign in Arab nationalism as well, which challenges the Kurds’ desire to expand southward and annex various areas of northern Iraq. Maliki is beginning this push for new partners in the provincial councils, and is hoping that some winning combination will emerge before the parliamentary elections. This new struggle is playing itself out in various provinces now such as Diyala, and others. The major problem is that as it stands now, Maliki’s new partners do not have nearly enough to form a majority in Iraq’s 275-member parliament, so there will be plenty more maneuvering before everything is said and done.


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

Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “KA, IAF agree to share leading posts in Diala,” 2/24/09
- “New Diala governor elected,” 4/11/09
- “Police prevent Diala council from holding first session,” 4/6/09
- “Thousands of protesters call to dissolve IHEC-Diala,” 3/1/09
- “Thousands stage demonstrations in Diala,” 4/8/09

International Crisis Group, “Iraq After The Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy,” 4/30/08

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Rossmiller, Alex, “The Bush administration’s four-year history of erratic meddling in search of an Iraqi ‘savior.’” American Prospect, 4/11/07

Russo, Claire, “Countdown To Diyala’s Provincial Election: Maliki & The The IIP,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/30/09

Sabah, Zaid and Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Hundreds of Iraqi Shiites Protest Voting Results, Allege Fraud,” Washington Post, 3/2/09

Shadid, Anthony, “New Alliance In Iraq Cross Sectarian Lines,” Washington Post, 3/20/09

Visser, Rediar, “Iraq’s New Provincial Councils: A Mixed Picture North of Baghdad, Unexpected Complications in the Centre and the South,”, 4/13/09


Dominic said...

This is some of the best analysis of Iraqi politics I've seen on the web. It's hard to find in depth English language reporting and analysis, especially on politics at the provincial level. Can you please send your latest posting in the Baghdad Provincial Council to ""? Thank you. I greatly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I'll echo Dominic's point that this is excellent analysis.

A couple minor comments. In two places (the number of arrest warrants for members of the Provincial Council and the number of protesters) you have sources that quote a range of numbers and mention the higher numbers in your article. I suspect that the lower numbers are closer to the truth - with the caveat that I am referring only to the number of warrants shown (the police may have warrants for all 29 members in pocket somewhere).

The interplay between Baghdad forces and local forces is still ongoing. There are several positions yet to be assigned (Second Deputy Governor, Assistant Governors, Committee Chairs) - don't be surprised to see "opposition" figures in some of those seats in Diyala.

Also - I think there is a southern province with a Dawa - Supreme Council alliance despite earlier speculation that Dawa would align with the Sadrists.

Joel Wing said...

Thanks for the compliments. I'm working hard to keep pumping out these articles. Glad you enjoyed them.

As for the questions, I originally wrote that there were 3 arrest warrants issued for members of the Diyala council, but I had more sources that said 6 so I went with that.

Reidar Visser in his latest article said that the State of Law was trying to form an alliance with the SIIC in Maysan but that hasn't happened yet.

In Wasit, the former governor who was a Sadrist was re-elected after being pushed through by the Supreme Council. State of Law was originally protesting his nomination at first, but they seemed to have given up.

Later today I'm going to post a story about who's been name where so far in the provincial councils.

Joel Wing said...

All of those that were wanted by the police on the new council were members of the Iraqi Accordance Front. I suspected as much but no specifics were recorded until today's Niqash.

This Day In Iraqi History - Jul 19 Qasim started crackdown on Communists hoping to limit their power

  1733 Safavid siege of Baghdad ended by Ottoman relief force