Monday, September 21, 2009

Update On Political Maneuvers Before 2010 Elections

Iraqi political parties and figures continue to make new coalitions and conduct negotiations with each other in preparation for the January 2010 parliamentary elections. The two major coalitions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the new Iraqi National Alliance are both seeking a wide variety of new partners, some completely unexpected, which might engulf the smaller lists.

First, the new head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) Ammar al-Hakim gave a sermon on September 21, 2009 during the Eid al-Fitr holiday aimed at bringing Maliki into the Iraqi National Alliance. Hakim said that the coalition was working to bring in new members and widen its base, and that he supported the Prime Minister’s call for an international tribunal to investigate the August bombings in Baghdad. Hakim also promised better delivery of water and electricity if his list won, something that Maliki is also running on. If the Prime Minister joined the National Alliance, it would become the largest and most popular list in the country, which could muster a plurality of the votes. Maliki however, is intent on running on his own, since the Alliance would not give in to his demands to be their only candidate for Prime Minister.

The National Alliance and Maliki are also competing over the loyalty of former speaker of parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and his Independent National Trend. Mashhadani, an independent Sunni, was the first well-known politician to say that he would run with Maliki. Mashhadani has since said he is reconsidering that move, and is now being courted by the National Alliance.

In a completely unexpected move, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National List is now flirting with the National Alliance. Allawi is currently aligned with parliamentary Saleh al-Mutlaq in what could be called the neo-Baathists since they are secular, nationalists that appeal to many former regime elements. If Allawi were to join the National Alliance, and they accepted him, it would show that they only care about power and nothing else. There is already no ideological coherence to the list as is. The Sadrists and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for example, preach nationalism, a strong central government, and are critical of the ruling Kurdish parties. The SIIC on the other hand, are proponents of federalism and the closest allies of the Kurds in the country. The Sadrists and Supreme Council do agree on excluding Baathist from government, and yet that is exactly who Allawi appeals to. If he agreed to join his Iraqi National List would probably break apart, and he would be overwhelmed by the larger parties in return for a nominal ministership.

In Anbar, Sheikh Ahmad Abu Risha has formed a new coalition called the Iraqi Unity List. It mostly consists of small tribal groups, but pulled a coup in bringing in the Constitution Party of Interior Minister Jawad Bolani. Both the National Alliance and Maliki have talked with the Minister, and many think Bolani was going to run for prime minister. Abu Risha has been flirting about running with Maliki for months now however, so that could mean Bolani does not aspire to the top spot in Iraq.

Overall, the fracturing of the Sunnis into smaller parties, may mean that they will be overwhelmed by the larger Shiite ones. Former head of the Iraqi Islamic Party Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for example, may run with Maliki. All of the leading Anbar sheikhs are trying to make ties with Shiites as well. Like Allawi, they may gain a few nominal ministerial positions, but be subordinate to the Shiite parties.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Hamid, “Iraqi Shiite leader appeals for unity before vote,” Associated Press, 9/21/09

Alsumaria, “New coalitions arise ahead of Iraq elections,” 9/12/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “National Current may reconsider alliance with State of Law,” 9/19/09

Najm, Hayder, “al-maliki faces shia election threat,” Niqash, 9/15/09

Roads To Iraq, “Iraq pre-election political map – The Sunni scene,” 9/19/09

Visser, Reidar, “Why an Allawi-Hakim Alliance would Mean Retrogression in Iraq,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/21/09

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