Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission released final results of the March 7th election last Friday. Former Prime Minister Allawi’s secular coalition Iraqiya scored a narrow victory with 91 seats, edging out Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition that won 89 seats. I am going to spend time analyzing the results in the next few days and share my thoughts with you about them. In the meantime, giving you some background on the political forces in Iraq should be very useful to fully understand the ongoing negotiations to form a new ruling coalition.
In terms of political alliances, the situation has evolved considerably since 2005. In the January 2005 election, 111 lists were competing and by the December 2005 election, 228 lists were registered. However, Iraq’s major parties had formed three main blocs: the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (won 47% of the seats), the Kurdistani Alliance (won 20% of the seats) and the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (won 16% of the seats).
Those large coalitions broke apart ahead of the 2010 election, ending an era of Iraqi politics with parties split along clear sectarian lines. As a result, 306 registered political parties participated in the March 7th election, with seven main alliances competing for seats:
- The Iraqi National Alliance
The Islamic Iraqi National Alliance, supported by Vice President Abdul Mahdi, is the successor of the United Iraqi Alliance that almost won a majority of seats in 2005 and dominated the government since. It mainly comprises religious Shia elements, such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Ammar al-Hakim, the Badr organization and the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and openly appealed to the Shia religious elements in its campaign.
- The State of Law Coalition
The State of Law Coalition is led by Prime Minister Al-Maliki and dominated by the Islamic Dawa that left the United Iraqi Alliance. It regroups tens of small parties, in an attempt to create a trans-sectarian, nationalist alliance, and campaigned on the success of Maliki’s government in restoring security in Iraq.
- The Iraqi Accord
The Sunni Iraqi Accord is nominally a relict from the Iraqi Accord Front that won 16% of the seats in 2005. After losing its more secular leaders, it is almost entirely made up of the Iraqi Islamic Party, and supported by the speaker of the current Parliament, Ayad al-Samarrai. It focused its campaign on the two provinces where they were likely to get the best elections results: Nineveh and Anbar.
- The Iraqi Unity
Partly derived from the Iraqi Accordance Front, the Iraqi Unity intended to be a secular alliance bringing together Shiites, such as the interior minister al-Bolani, and Sunnis, such as the tribal leader, Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha. However, the de-baathification process disqualified many of its candidates, which significantly weakened the alliance.
- The Iraqi National Movement / Iraqiya
The Iraqiya coalition is a largely secular and anti-sectarian alliance that relies on strong political personalities. Its campaign focused on a nationalist theme as well as on restoring Iraq’s greatness in the region. Led by the former Prime Minister Allawi, a Shiite with strong links to Western countries, and Vice President al-Hashimi, a Sunni, it quickly emerged as a key challenger in the March 7th elections, even if some of its key leaders were banned because of alleged ties to the Baath party.
- The Kurdish lists : the Kurdistani Alliance versus Gorran
For the first time since 2003, the Kurds did not have a unified coalition, but still did not show any desire to join non-sectarian alliances, campaigning on Kurdistani issues. The Kurdistani Alliance still brings together the two parties administering the semi-autonomous Kurdish region: the “Kurdistan Democratic Party” and the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,” which used to be engaged in a war with each other and won 20% of the parliamentary seats in 2005. However, its preeminence in the Kurdish region has been weakened by an opposition movement, Gorran, which means Change, which emerged in reaction to corruption within Kurdish politics and won a quarter of the seats of the Kurdistan's parliamentary in 2009.
The release of final results officially started the process of forming a new cabinet. With its alliance winning the most seats, Allawi has 30 days to form a government. But if he fails at getting a coalition that holds a majority of 163 seats, the leader of another political list will be designated instead. As a result, those seven major coalitions are going to be battling to form the coalition government.
Stay tuned for our next post that will provide a detailed analysis of the March 7th election results!