As the two front-runners in Iraq’s March 2010 election, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, complain about each other cheating, a more important trend can be seen in Iraqi politics. That is the decline of small parties.
In the January and December 2005 parliamentary elections, around 10% of the vote went to small independent parties. In the first legislative balloting for example, 111 lists ran over 7,000 candidates for a temporary parliament that was to draft a new constitution. Several small parties were able to garner enough votes to win at least one seat, including the Iraqis Party with 5 seats, the Iraqi Turkmen Front with 3, the Communist Party that ran as the People’s Union with 2, the Kurdistan Islamic Group with 2, the Islamic Action with 2, and the National Democratic Alliance, the Rafidain National List, and the Liberation and Reconciliation Gathering with one seat each. Fewer small parties won office in the December vote, but they were still represented. Parties that gained at least one representative in the permanent parliament were the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Rafidain National List, the Democratic Society Movement, the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, the Future Iraq Grouping, the Iraqi National Peace List, the Iraqi Nation List, the Iraq Pledge Coalition, the National Democratic Coalition, the Nationalists Grouping, the National House of Commons List, Parliament of the Iraqi National Forces, the Rally of Independent Iraq’s Capabilities, and the Sun of Iraq List. About half of theses small parties in the 2005 balloting represented local or secular concerns.
These minor parties have been the main losers in the 2010 election. With 95% of the votes counted, only the Kurdish opposition parties and the Unity of Iraq list led by Interior Minister Jawad Bolani have garnered enough votes to join the new parliament. The Unity of Iraq will get around 3 seats, while the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group have gained around 16 seats together. Ironically, Bolani does not currently have enough votes to win a seat himself. The Communist Party won 2 seats in December 2005, but none this year. The Iraqi Nation Party of parliamentarian Mithal al-Lusi also failed to meet the 35,000 ballots necessary.
As reported before, elections in Iraq solidify trends that are already occurring in the country. In the 2009 provincial balloting small parties did badly showing that they either had to join the larger lists to try to gain some sort of representation or run alone and take the risk of being shut out of Iraq’s politics. Ironically, in the end these minor parties end up supporting the bigger coalitions anyway since Iraq’s election law stipulates that parties that don’t reach the necessary threshold to earn a seat have their votes distributed amongst the winners. This is a natural progression in many democratic systems. When a new system is first imposed there is usually a plethora of parties representing all kinds of interests. As the system matures the smaller parties are often swallowed up by the larger ones due to their greater resources and ability to co-opt them by offering some of the spoils of victory. That doesn’t mean that minor lists wont run in the next election, but they will probably have the same fate as 2010 with few victories, and increasingly join the main coalitions.
BBC, “Guide to Iraqi political parties,” 1/20/06
- “Iraq Shias move to form coalition,” 2/14/05
Carlstrom, Gregg, “Latest Iraq Election Results: Maliki Demands a Recount,” The Majlis, 3/21/10
Al Dulaimy, Mohammed and Allam, Hannah, “In tight Iraq parliament vote, upsets point to future battles,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/19/10
International Crisis Group, “Iraq’s Uncertain Future: Elections And Beyond,” 2/24/10
Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Elections and New Government,” Congressional Research Service, 6/24/05
Ramzi, Kholoud, “the end of the small party in Iraq?” Niqash, 3/18/10
Visser, Reidar, “A Dead Heat: The 95 Percent Count,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 3/22/10
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