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Entries in State of Law List (4)


Iraq: What Do Latest Post-Election Power Plays Indicate? (Cole) 

Juan Cole cuts through the confusion to offer the latest developments in the post-election struggle to lead Iraq. Many useful points here, including:

1. No individual, party, or list "won" the 7 March election, since no one has even one-third of the Parliamentary seats. The battle is now to form a working coalition amongst the various parties.

2. While these maneovures include meetings between Iraqi political actors in Tehran, this does not mean that Tehran will control or dominate any emerging Iraqi Government.

3. And a point made through absence in this account: although the US has an interest in this contest, there is little sign of the Americans in these latest moves.

The Justice and Accountability Commission (formerly the Debaathification Commission), headed by Ahmad Chalabi, is moving to disqualify 6 elected candidates in the 7 March election for their ties to the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. Three of those to be banned are from the Iraqiya list of [former Prime Minister] Iyad Allawi, which would reduce his seat total from 91 to 88, making his list second in number of seats after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, which has 89 seats.

The move, by commission head Ahmad Chalabi (himself an elected MP on the fundamentalist Shiite list, the Iraqi National Alliance), will cause a lot of anger among Sunni Arabs, the main backers of Allawi's list, along with secular middle class urban Shiites.

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports that commission official Ali al-Lami let it slip that one of those to be disqualified is Hamdi Najm, leader of the National Dialogue Front in Diyala Province, who is currently in prison on terrorism charges. His party forms part of the Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi. The disqualifications will be taken to court. However, the courts sided with the Justice and Accountability Commission when it excluded candidates on these grounds in the lead-up to the election, so that avenue does not appear very promising.

But the move is not decisive in deciding the next prime minister, because who can form a government depends not on who has a plurality but on who can put together a governing coalition. It is true that the constitution requires the president to ask the leader of the single largest bloc to form a government. But if that person cannot, then another party leader would get the chance. The best analogy for Iraqi politics at the moment is Israel or Lebanon. In the 2009 parliamentary elections in Israel, Tzipi Livni's Kadima gained 28 seats and Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud only got 27. But you will note that Netanyahu is prime minister, because Shas, Yisrael Beitenu and others preferred to ally with him rather than with Ms. Livni.

I admit to a good deal of frustration with the corporate media in the United States that keeps talking about Iyad Allawi "winning" the Iraqi parliamentary elections. It just is not true. Apparently even some well informed and intelligence Americans can't understand the difference between achieving a slight plurality and winning a parliamentary election.

You need 163 seats to have a majority in the 325-member Iraqi parliament, so neither 91 nor 89 is a "win." Rather, 163 is a win. Allawi did not win and has not won and probably won't win.

The reason is that it is difficult to see how he gets to 163. He needs 72 more seats (or maybe 75 if the disqualifications go through). It is easier for al-Maliki's list, if not al-Maliki himself, to get to 163 seats than it is for Allawi, since the fundamentalist Shiites have 70 seats and they under normal circumstances will find it easier to ally with Maliki's Islamic Mission Party (Da'wa) than with the secular Arab nationalists and Sunnis that back Allawi.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that 'informed sources' told its reporters that Ali al-Adib, a leader of al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, recently met Muqtada al-Sadr in Qom, Iran, though they have not yet closed a deal. Al-Sadr has 38 seats in parliament and his bloc is the largest single group of seats in the Shiite fundamentalist Iraqi National Alliance, which has 70 seats. Then, al-Maliki is said to have returned to Baghdad from Tehran, accompanied by al-Adib and Abdul Hamid al-Zuhairi (both from the State of Law list) and Jalal al-Din al-Saghir and Hadi al-Amiri of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

Al-Maliki is said to have been among a big party of Iraqi officials in Tehran the day before yesterday. They went there, al-Hayat said, because there was too much danger of being listened in on in Iraq. Presumably what is actually being asserted here is that the US has sophisticated signals intelligence and has widely tapped phones, so that in Baghdad any attempt at coalition-formation would be immediately picked up by US intelligence. Since the US is widely thought to be backing Allawi's secular Iraqiya list, it would be undesirable from al-Maliki's point of view for them to overhear his negotiations with other lists. Thus, they went off to Iran.

Al-Hayat's source says that Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated flexibility, and demanded in return for dropping his objection to al-Maliki the release of all prisoners from his movement, and undertakings that al-Maliki would not attempt to rule single-handedly. He also wanted an agreement that al-Maliki would be fired if he attempted to overstep the decided-up course of action of the party. A Sadrist leader, Qusay Suhail, refused to comment on the Iran story, but did allow as how the Sadrists had met with representatives of al-Maliki's State of Law. The source said that so far in the negotiations the Kurdistan Alliance and the Sadr Movement have declined to put forward an alternative candidate for prime minister. So far al-Maliki is the only candidate from the Shiite parties, "and we did not sense any opposition to him." In contrast, cleric Jalal al-Din Saghir of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq insisted that ISCI would definitely put forward a prime ministerial candidate. (ISCI is actually too small to follow through on Saghir's bluster.)

Iraq Special: The Outcome of the Election --- Uncertainty

The dominant headline from the uncertified results of Iraq's national elections, released this evening, will be that former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his Iraqqiya list "won" with 91 seats, two more than the State of Law list headed by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Don't be fooled. Since no alliance, let alone single party, won even 30 percent of the 325 seats in Iraq's Parliament, here's your headline:


Iraq: The State of the Elections (Parker and Lynch)

The three weeks waiting for this preliminary outcome are only a prelude to months of bargaining, pressuring, and promising to try and force a coalition. That brings into play the Iraqi National Alliance of predominantly "religious" Shiite parties (v. the "secular" Shi'a al-Maliki and Allawi), with 71 seats, and the alliance of Kurdistan's two dominant parties, with 43.

Reidar Visser offers this useful snap analysis on

The Iraqi elections commission, IHEC, has today released the full, uncertified results of the 7 March parliamentary elections. The distribution of the seats has been specified at the entity level for all the 325 deputies in the next assembly.

The Iraqi elections commission, IHEC, has today released the full, uncertified results of the 7 March parliamentary elections. The distribution of the seats has been specified at the entity level for all the 325 deputies in the next assembly.

The differences with the situation as reported in earlier counts (and calculated in accordance with IHEC regulation 21) are minimal. The secular-nationalist Iraqiyya (INM) comes out on top with 91 seats, followed by State of Law (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki second at 89 seats, the Iraqi National Alliance at 70 seats and the Kurdistan Alliance at 43 seats (having apparently made some serious headway in the final count). The distribution of minority seats was apparently on the patternforecasted previously. [The table with distribution of seats is in Visser's original post.]

The names of the winning candidates (based on how the electorate used the open-list option to promote individuals within a list) have yet to be published; this will be done at the IHEC website and in Iraqi newspapers tomorrow. The identity of the winners of the seven compensation seats (two for each of the three big lists and one for the Kurdish list) will be withheld pending a query to the federal supreme court about the rules for their allocation to individuals.

Ayad Allawi and Iraqiyya now go strengthened into the coalition-forming process. By winning more seats than expected south of Baghdad and almost as many seats as Maliki in Baghdad, Allawi has proved that he is more than "the candidate of the Sunnis" (which was always implausible given his own Shiite background). However, the two parties that are closest to each other on many key constitutional issues (and maybe the most promising combination to get an oil law passed anytime soon), Iraqiyya and State of Law, remain at odds with each other mainly due to differences at the personal level between their leaders. In this kind of situation, probably the most logical step for Iraqiyya would be to explore the possibility of a deal with the Kurds that balances some solid concessions to Arbil with preservation of Iraqi nationalist ideals as far as the structure of government south of Kurdistan is concerned. Additional support could come either from Shiite Islamists who share the view of Iraqiyya on the importance of a centralised state in the rest of Iraq (for example the Sadrists), or, alternatively, all the small blocs in parliament joined together with Iraqiyya and the Kurds (166 seats). It is to be hoped that the ideologically contradictive scheme of a deal with ISCI (the pro-Iranian decentralist Shiite party with which Iraqiyya only shares certain ties at the personal level) will be avoided, since it would mean another oversized, ineffective government populated by parties with little in common. At any rate, ISCI now has diminishing cloutwithin INA.

Also, some uncertainty has been added to the mix due to a ruling by the federal supreme court yesterday which explicitly makes it clear that the key definition of "the largest bloc in parliament" (which is supposed to form the next government) can also include post-election bloc formation. This in turn breathes new life into the scenario preferred by Iran of the two Shiite-led blocs, INA and SLA, joining together to a single big entity, on the pattern of what happened in 2004/2005. Talks about this has come to the fore again over the last weeks as Maliki gradually realised that his ambition of going it alone, separate from the other Shiites, was not going to be fulfilled quite in the way he had foreseen. It would, however, require considerable recalibration within Shiite circles, since the Sadrists are likely to overshadow ISCI in the INA contingent, and they are not known to be keen on a second Maliki premiership. Nonetheless, the mere fact that this option is now being talked about at all signifies the big irony of these elections: Ali Faysal al-Lami, the de-Baathification director, both lost and won them to some extent. He got just a few hundred personal votes for INA in Baghdad, and will not win a seat in parliament. But through his witch hunt he forced Maliki into a more sectarian corner, and thereby prevented him from winning much-needed support north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the next procedural step is of a simpler character: The results will have to be formally certified in the Iraqi legal system. Only then will the clock for government formation start ticking in a formal sense. Upon certification of the results, the current president, Jalal Talabani, must call on the new national assembly to convene within fifteen days. At that point, the council will have to elect a speaker with two deputies. In theory, that election is separate from the government formation, although it seems likely that whoever is forming the next government will want allies to fill those posts: With the control of the parliamentary agenda that comes with them, they are going to be more important during the next four years than the office of the president, which now becomes a more ceremonial position. The new president, in turn, is to be elected within 30 days of the first parliamentary meeting. The constitution stipulates an aspiration of a two thirds majority for the election of the president but allows for a simple-majority run-off in case that requirement should prove elusive. This in turn means that it is the 163 mark that needs to be met in order to secure the election of the president and thereby get the government-formation process on track in earnest, with a deadline of another fifteen days for the president to formally charge the nominee of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government within another thirty days. In other words, if certification takes place around 1 April, a meeting of the new parliament must be held within 15 April, a new president must be elected within 15 May, a PM nominee must be identified by 1 June, and a new cabinet must be presented for approval of parliament before 1 July. The psychological deadline is likely to be the start of Ramadan around 10 August and the scheduled completion of withdrawal of US combat troops by 31 August.

Iraq: The State of the Elections (Parker and Lynch)

With the full results from Iraq's national election due to be released today, two summaries of the current political situation from Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times and from Marc Lynch:


With final results in Iraq's election set to be announced Friday, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his secular rival, former Premier Iyad Allawi, are neck in neck in the race to form the next national government.

LATEST UPDATE Iraq Special: The Outcome of the Election — Uncertainty

Whether the results will even stand has been clouded by Maliki's allegations of fraud and a demand for a recount.

Below are the US military's estimates on the final results based on the counting of 95 percent of the votes in the March 7th national election. [Full images can be accessed from Parker's article.] The projections put Maliki's State of Law coalition at 90 seats and Allawi's Iraqiya list at 87 seats.

Maliki's Shiite rivals in the Iraqi National Alliance are projected to win 70 seats and the main Kurdish blocs a total of 56 seats. It is a far-from-comfortable majority for forming the next government and would leave Maliki vulnerable to being unseated.


The final results of Iraq’s elections are yet to be released, but with 95 per cent of the votes counted, it is clear that the contest is a dead heat between the two leading parties – the State of Law list headed by Nouri al Maliki, Iraq’s current prime minister, and the Al Iraqiya list headed by former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

The eventual winner will have the first shot at forming a coalition government, but these negotiations are widely expected to take several weeks, and Iraq’s next government is unlikely to be seated before May. While there is still a real risk that allegations of fraud, or a prolonged electoral deadlock, could trigger contentious or violent protests, the vote in Iraq can still avoid the ignominious fate of recent “decisive elections” in the region, like those in Afghanistan and Iran.

Contrary to the persistent worries of outside observers, Iraq is not unravelling. Indeed, the results suggest that Iraqi nationalism is becoming a more potent force than sectarianism and that most voters have no trouble accepting a strong central government. Both of the leading lists – al Maliki’s Shiite-dominated “party of state” and Allawi’s avowedly nonsectarian alliance – claimed to represent Iraqi nationalism, and both potential prime ministers have reputations for the forceful exercise of state power.
Meanwhile, lists identified with sectarian, Iranian or American interests fared poorly. Prominent symbols of the American-backed Sunni “Awakening” in Anbar ­Province were wiped out in the elections, capturing only a handful of seats. Within the Shiite Iraqi National Alliance, candidates affiliated with Muqtada al Sadr far outpaced those hailing from the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq; while both have ties to Iran, where al Sadr himself resides, ISCI is closer to the leadership in Tehran while the Sadrists tend to be more deeply rooted in the Shiite underclass and to voice a more pugnacious Iraqi nationalism. Mithal al Alousi, a pro-American politician known for his outspoken views, failed to win a single seat. And a number of leading members of the post-2003 ruling elite were undone by the open-list voting system, which allowed Iraqis to select their preferred candidates from among each electoral list rather than accepting the rankings carefully negotiated in advance by party leaders.

The remarkable performance of the Iraqiya list, which is headed by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, and includes Tareq al Hashemi, the current Sunni vice president, and a number of other leading Sunni political figures, has been the greatest surprise of the election.

Read rest of article....

The Day After the Iraq Election: "Politics Takes Over"

1220 GMT: The excellent analyst Marc Lynch has just made the immediate point, "All the Iraqi lists appear to be claiming victory. I'd wait for official results, which will be a while." His comment comes a few hours after a CNN correspondent pondered, "Each TV station corresponding to each political bloc saying that they are the winners...hmmm...."

The “Violent Semi-Peace”: Elections in Iraq, Escalation in Afghanistan
Iraq LiveBlog: Election Day

This is the real politics of Iraq, a day after the headlines of bombings and "democracy". With no party in the position to establish a national majority and indeed, outside Kurdistan, even a regional dominance, the negotiations, coercions, and manipulations take over, even before the preliminary results are announced on Thursday.

In Kurdistan, there is an intriguing contest between the Kurdistan List --- made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Kurdish Prime Minister Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Iraq President Jalal Talabani --- and the Gorran Party, established to break the stranglehold of the KDP and PUK on Kurdish politics. An activist says that Gorran narrowly won in the city of Suleymaniyah and lost in province of the same name; however, Gorran is claiming fraud in the provincial vote. Another activist says that Gorran has also secured seats in Diyala, Mosul, and Salahaddin; however, the Kurdistan List has triumphed by a 2:1 margin in Erbil.

Juan Cole offers an overview:

Sunday's vote for a new parliament in Iraq on Sunday could result in two possible geopolitical futures for that country.

If the Iraqi National List of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi did well enough to come to power, that would reorient Iraq radically, taking it back in some ways to 2002. Allawi's coalition is largely made up of Arab nationalists who would see Iran as a threat and would ally with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Baghdad would go back to helping contain Iran. Sunni Arab radicalism would likely be tamped down. For Washington, it would be the best of all possible worlds-- a pro-American Iraqi government headed by a former CIA asset that is willing to help pressure Iran for the West. Internally, an Allawi government that depends heavily on Sunni Arab constituencies would find it difficult to compromise with the Kurds on the disputed province of Kirkuk or on Kurdistan's interests in Ninevah and Diyala, setting the stage for a potential civil war.

If, on the other hand, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki manages to hold on to power, Iraq will remain firmly in Shiite hands, and will likely have warm relations with Tehran. Certainly, Baghdad would have no interest in helping contain Iran. Relations with Saudi Arabia will continue to be bad. As the US withdraws, Iranian influence could ramp up and fill the vacuum. Al-Maliki also has his tensions with the Kurds, but his relatively bad relations with the Sunni Arabs of Mosul mean that he could deal with the Kurds without incurring much more enmity from the Sunni Arabs than he already does.

So those are the two possibilities facing Iraq-- roughly, reintegration into the Sunni-dominated Arab League, or an Iran alliance. In a way, the choices replicate those of the 1930s, Iraq's first decade of independence from Britain. The government of PM Hikmat Sulaiman in 1936-1937 rejected Arab nationalism and developed good relations with Iran. Sulaiman was a Turkmen and he served under the military dictatorship of Bakr al-Sidqi, a Kurd. There is a sense in which the al-Maliki-Talibani condominium of the past 4 years revives many geopolitical themes of the Sulaiman-Sidqi period. Their dire enemies were the Arab nationalist officers, who were focused on Palestine and felt more kinship with Egypt than with Iran. Allawi is more in that Arab nationalist tradition, though he is by heritage a Shiite.

Here is why I think the return of Allawi as prime minister is unlikely despite an apparently strong showing for his party in the elections.

The Saudi-owned pan-Arab London daily "The Middle East" [al-Sharq al-Awsat] is reporting that its correspondents are conveying an (unscientific) impression from exit polling that the Iraqi National List of Allawi is doing extremely well in the Sunni Arab provinces, and is running a strong second in the Shiite south (Kurds in the north typically vote only for Kurdish parties.) The report is rather breathless and I think the numbers are almost certainly exaggerated. It also alleges that current prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition is getting 40% of votes in the Shiite south, which may be true for Baghdad and Basra (it did nearly that well in the provincial elections last year), but it would represent a major change in voting patterns in rural Shiite provinces such as Maysan and Dhi Qar.

Even so, without an unexpected landslide in the south, Allawi is unlikely to become prime minister. He will need 163 seats out of 325 to govern, and there is probably no way for his coalition to deliver them. Even leading lists will likely get less that 100 seats, and so will need post-election coalition partners. That small parties willing to ally with Allawi would have as many as 75 seats to deliver to him seems unlikely. So he'd have to deal with the big three--the State of Law, the National Iraqi Alliance, and the Kurdistan Alliance (or the Kurdistan parties generally). But they might well decline to deal with him, and could seek to exclude him instead.

Al-Maliki's State of Law list campaigned hard against the resurgence of Baathism, and Allawi and many on his list are ex-Baathists, so al-Maliki would have to eat a lot of crow to accept a junior position in an Allawi government. It seems unlikely, even if politics makes for strange bedfellows.

The Shiite religious parties grouped in the National Iraqi Alliance are said by the exit polls (for the little they are worth) to be coming in third. They are also highly unlikely to ally with Allawi, since he is an old-time CIA asset and ex-Baathist whose interim government was hostile to the Shiite religious authorities and to Iran.

Allawi appears to be attracting strong support in Ninevah Province in the north, which returned an Arab nationalist party in the provincial elections of 2009. Ninevah has a Sunni Arab majority and a Kurdish minority, but the Kurds had been dominant in provincial government and the security forces because the Sunnis had sat out the provincial elections of January 2005. There is very bad blood between the Arabs and Kurds in Ninevah.

So Allawi will find it difficult to ally with the Kurds while keeping his Sunni Arab nationalist base. But not only would he need the Kurds to get a simple majority if the other two big coalitions spurned him, but it will take a multi-party coaltion of 215 or so members of parliament to elect a president.

Whereas the numbers don't easily add up for Allawi, it seems likely that the State of Law, the Shiite fundamentalist parties of the NIA, and some smaller parties willing to join the two of them, could easily get to over 163, and they have a proven ability to work with the Kurds and independents to get to 215. In order to block this scenario, Allawi's list would have to get well over 100 seats and be united and disciplined.

As I suggested Sunday, one price al-Maliki might have to pay to gain the National Iraqi alliance as a partner is to agree to accelerate the US troop withdrawal (a key demand of the Sadr faction in the NIA).

Whatever the outcome of the voting (and a projected result based on one-third of the votes is scheduled to be announced on Wednesday), it may not be easily accepted by the losers. There is tremendous anxiety in Iraq about the possibility of ballot fraud in the wake of Sunday's parliamentary elections. The Iranian Arabic-language satellite station al-Alam reported on Sunday that the Shiite fundamentalist Sadr movement was alarmed to hear that ballot boxes were being transported from the provinces to Baghdad by US troops, and insisted that the US be kept away from those boxes. (They must have heard about Florida in 2000). Allawi is on Al Jazeera complaining about irregularities. He didn't say this, but campaigning continued through Sunday althought it was supposed to be forbidden after Friday late afternoon. In Basra, al-Hayat reports that anti-Allawi pamphlets were dropped by helicopter on Saturday and Snday.

Bottom line, another Allawi prime ministership is unlikely even if his list turns in strong performance.