Race tightens between Iraq's Maliki, Allawi


With more than 80 percent of the in-country vote counted by the Independent High Election Commission, the race between Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's State of Law Coalition and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi National Movement (Iraqiya) party is in a virtual dead heat. The charts below provide a look at the likely distribution of seats in parliament; the percentage of votes received by the major parties nationwide; and the votes received by the top three parties by province, excluding the three Kurdish provinces. The vote percentages by province have changed only a few points, if any, since the last round of data was released last weekend. See LWJ report, "Maliki, Allawi surge in Iraq's early vote count," for additional analysis.

Iraq-election-2010-seats.png

Click chart to view the likely distribution of seats among Iraq's major parties. Source: "Predictions Based on Partial Results: Allawi Emerges as a Possible Front-Runner," Iraq and Gulf Analysis.

Iraq-election-2010-percent-votes.jpg

Click chart to view the percentage of national vote, by party. Source: "Results: Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election," The Majlis

Iraq-election-results-2010.jpg

Click chart to view early results of Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election for the top three parties. The voting data for the Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulimaniyah have been excluded as the Kurdish Alliance is dominating the polls. Source: "Partial Election Results for 13 Governorates Released by IHEC," Historiae.org



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READER COMMENTS: "Race tightens between Iraq's Maliki, Allawi"

Posted by Zeissa at March 17, 2010 8:15 PM ET:

Come on Allawi... take it home! Please!

Posted by JMC at March 17, 2010 9:21 PM ET:

I have long believed Allawi was the best post war PM Iraq has had and in terms of the United States containing Iranian ambitions in Iran and elsewhere he is clearly the most willing to do so.

The problem is this divided result will mean that either Maliki or Allawi if they don't form a national unity government will have weak governments that are held together by the likes of SIIC and/or the Sadrists and a few other parties.

If the U.S. is serious today about stability in Iraq and checking Iran's influence in the Middle East it would be by far in the best interests of the United States to help try to hammer out a deal between the two of them.

Posted by Neo at March 17, 2010 11:11 PM ET:

United States interests won't be foremost on the Iraqi's minds when they form a government this time. Maliki is the closest to centrist and has more potential allies than any other candidate. Maliki is also solidly within the Shiite political spectrum while Allawi may be too secular for the Shiite populous at this time.

I don't see Allawi forming a ruling coalition without Maliki's party. Allawi would have to get the Kurds on board. I don't think he could manage Kurdish demands against Sunni demands well enough to form a stable coalition with them. I can see Maliki forming a coalition without Allawi. I still say Maliki goes to his Shiite base first.

Other things I see. The Sunni fundamentalist party has become a non-entity. The Iraqi National Alliance has lost a lot of ground. I wonder how the ISCI feels about sharing it's seats with the Sadrist's. I would hope they didn't promise them too large a percentage. We know what happened the last time.

Posted by JMC at March 18, 2010 9:13 AM ET:

Regardless if Iraqis care about U.S. interests we still have significant power to arbitrate political fights in Iraq and we have a real interest in seeing a government formed within 2-3 months instead of what could end up being a much much longer period.

As for Maliki being the most centrist he may be the most centrist leading politican in regard to the Iraqi Shia community. But, in terms of Iraq as a whole Allawi is more of a centrist given he was the only list to seriously be able to cross sectarian lines with a decient number of voters given the vote totals he recieved in Shia southern Iraq were at the level I think few expected. That said Allawi certainly didn't make any inroads with the Kurds and niether did Maliki.

Posted by Cordell at March 18, 2010 2:31 PM ET:

Regarding Iraqi political coalitions, a few words of advice spoken by Marlon Brando in the "Godfather" come to mind: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Besides Iran and Syria, Iraq's most worrisome enemies are the Sadrists. Though a ragtag militia, their members form the largest group of disaffected with weapons. And they need only ask Iran to get more.

Following the "Godfather" rule, Iraq might best be served by a coalition between Maliki and the Shiite conservatives. Having a few Sadrists in minor offices inside the ruling coalition may cause headaches and sleepless nights for Maliki, but such troubles are minor to what Sadrists could do with no ties to the government and no responsibility for Iraq's stability. Maliki can buy most of them off by providing clean water, sanitation and electricity to the Baghdad and Basrah slums where most Sadrists live. If any get seriously out of line, Maliki can always accuse them of working for the Iranians and expel them from his government. Allawi's party would undoubtedly back him up in this event.

That said, the U.S. should encourage at least a cordial working relationship between Maliki's coalition and Allawi's. At heart, these groups and their leaders both seek a stable, democratic and secular Iraq, unlike Sadr.

Posted by Cordell at March 18, 2010 3:16 PM ET:

The Asia Times recently provided an insightful look at the process of forming a ruling coalition in Iraq. Apparently, the Iraqi constitution requires a two-thirds majority, not a simple majority, to form a government. The story is at:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LC09Ak03.html


The article concludes with commentary on whom Iraqis credit for their new-found democracy.

"If Obama stands to risk so much from potential fallout in Iraq, some in Iraq wonder whether a possible democratic success story is his to rightfully claim.

Lihony is one of many Iraqis, especially Kurds, who consider George W Bush a hero who overthrew a genocidal madman. He remains bullish on Iraqi democracy but questions Obama's role in shaping it.

'We Iraqis have proved that people of this region deserve what Western countries have. We have proved that democratic rights are not only Westerns values and rights. We have proved that democratization does work.

This is thanks to the neo-cons in America. What we have today is traced back to their efforts and hard-fought ideas.' "

Undoubtedly, the unmentioned heros of Iraqi democracy here include the men and women of coalition and Iraqi forces who risked their lives to make these elections possible.

Posted by Cordell at March 18, 2010 3:35 PM ET:

Further insights on the Iraqi election and shifts in power are provided by Reider Visser at: http://gulfanalysis.wordpress.com/

Sadrists, through better strategy, organization and get-out-the-vote efforts, appear to have out-punched their weight class:

"In sum, it seems the Sadrists were a lot more successful with their "primaries" last autumn than ISCI (who tried to copy them but clearly failed in identifying the right candidates in a process which looked rather bogus at the time, including SMS voting). One of the remarkable aspects of the Sadrist success is their ability to use the open-list vote strategically, i.e. by spreading the vote on a number of winning candidates across the list (the more usual pattern is that a limited number of highly popular candidates stand out). An interesting story by Anthony Shadid in The New York Times today hints about something that sounds like a district allocation key which may have played a role in this at least in Baghdad. Additionally, the Sadrists, led by a 7-man committee of scholars based in Najaf who have liaised with Muqtada al-Sadr, have put a great effort into promoting individual candidates and providing voters with information on their educational and career backgrounds. But Sadrist voters are not doing this blindly: Some Sadrist candidates have been effectively demoted, such as Qusay Abd al-Wahhab, number six on the original list in Baghdad, and a deputy in the outgoing parliament.

It seems inevitable that the remarkable Sadrist comeback at some point will be reflected in different coalition-forming dynamics. So far, this tentative process has remained dominated by the old elites, but what is really the point in negotiating with a 16-man bloc such as ISCI/Badr? With 34 plus candidates, the Sadrist will form a sizeable contingent of deputies comparable to the Kurdistan Alliance and as such will constitute an independent centre of power in the next Iraqi parliament."

Posted by Neo at March 19, 2010 10:30 AM ET:

Cordell,

I believe this time around the President and his deputies will voted in separately by simple majority. The old transitional government rules have changed. I believe the possibilities are much more fluid this time around.

Reference this article for a run down on the new rules.
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100218/REVIEW/702189992

This makes a big difference. This would make it much easier for a strong centrist candidate to form and break coalitions.

Posted by Lorenz Gude at March 20, 2010 10:32 AM ET:

I have not noticed much about the elections anywhere else on the net so I Googled Iraqi elections and didn't find a lot. Sadly there was a blog post from 2007 that showed up on the first page. The first news result was labelled 7 and 13 minutes old and claims Allawi is currently leading by 8000 votes.
http://www.tradearabia.com/news/newsdetails.asp?Sn=LAW&artid=176713

One of the things I get out of the relative lack of interest in the elections is that the neo-cons have been judged wrong in the West and it is nearly universally believed that it was foolish to try to introduce democracy in the Middle East. It has become a 'settled historical consensus' in the MSM and many other places. Look at the plight of Tony Blair being raked over the coals in the UK. Was Blair a neo-con? I don't think so. Bush's poodle? I don't think so. I think he was a social democrat who's principles led him to say that we ought to bring down a tyrant like Saddam when we have the opportunity. Having followed the LWJ from early in the war I have a very different view of what the war demonstrated - as I am pretty sure other regular readers do. Bottom line: I don't think it serves America's or the West's interest to pretend that something extraordinary isn't happening in Iraq.

Posted by Cordell at March 20, 2010 2:06 PM ET:

Neo:

I stand corrected. Iraqis need only a simple majority to form a governing coalition. Unfortunately, I placed to much faith in the veracity of the Asia Times reporter.

Posted by Lorenz Gude at March 21, 2010 8:53 AM ET:

Question: It looks like the Kurds are in a position to be kingmakers - why wouldn't the current defacto tie be an opportunity to join Allawi and form government? I know enough about Maliki to understand that his base is the traditional Shiite base led by Grand Ayatollah Sistani and so being less secular than Allawi he is more in a position to try to form government with various more radical Shiite factions including Sadr's. (Which I agree would keep his lads under control,) But it looks to me that the electorate - even and particularly a significant portion of the Shiite electorate - wants a more secular government. To me that means that it could be possible to form a government that has significant Sunni and Kurdish representation. Any reactions to this line of thinking?

Posted by Cordell at March 21, 2010 12:58 PM ET:

Lorenz:

A Sunni-Kurd alliance, though consistent with the generally secular Iraqi electorate, is undermined by an overwhelmingly contentious issue: the fate of Kirkuk. Until this Sunni-Kurd civil war is resolved and put behind these two groups, a Shiite-Kurd alliance seems much more probable.

Moreover, a Sunni-Kurd alliance only gives Allawi barely more than 130 votes in parliament, about 30 short of a majority. Although he could likely bring the minority parties on board, he would still need to gather over a dozen votes from the religious Shiite parties for a working majority.

Of course stranger things have occurred in Iraq recently, particularly the Sunni-American alliance in Anbar in 2006. Allawi would be smart to immediately resolve the status of Kirkuk between the Sunnis in his party and the major Kurdish parties. Brokering a deal that both Sunnis and Kurds could live with would definitely boost his chances of forming a governing coalition. In contrast, winning a minor plurality in the general election over Maliki provides little help to Allawi here; his party won five provinces to Maliki's seven, a scenario reminiscent of Bush-Gore in 2000.

Posted by Wheeler at March 22, 2010 4:35 PM ET:

With respect to the Iraqi elections, the future of Iraq with regard to United States involvement, and / or United States foreign policy initiatives with Iraq's neighbors, the Iraqi political establishment holds far more influence over its future than the United States military or diplomatic apparatus. For example, the following article highlights several considerations:

Popular consensus exists that the 2007 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq led to an improved security environment. The surge was designed to reduce violence and improve security by protecting the Iraqi population-a change in strategy. According to the consensus, the security environment improved due to the surge, measured by the decreasing number of attacks. For this thesis, the security environment consists of the number of attacks and their lethality, supported by data from U.S. Department of Defense reports to Congress. This thesis compares the timelines of the surge forces with the numbers of attacks, with the lethality of those attacks, and with factors other than the surge that may have improved the security environment. This thesis argues that the surge and associated strategy may have hastened improvement to the security environment, but they were neither necessary nor sufficient for the improvements in the security environment. Several theories and conflict models offer insight into how improvement in the security environment occurred: through efforts that countered insurgent sanctuary and social support, and consequently decreased the lethality of insurgent attacks. This analysis reveals that the political efforts of the Iraqi government and grass roots movements were the necessary and sufficient conditions for improvement.


http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/wheelerthesis.pdf


The views expressed above are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.


Seth Wheeler
Student: CGSC- Ft. Belvoir

Posted by Alex Cook at March 23, 2010 1:01 AM ET:

Are there any real policy differences between Allawi and Maliki, or mainly just "ego" differences?

Posted by Lorenz Gude at March 23, 2010 8:34 AM ET:

Cordell, thanks for the reply. My concept of Allawi's chances were predicated on the idea that he got a lot of Shiite votes and this could translate into a majority if he could get the Kurds into a coalition. In other words I thought he was in a dead heat with Maliki without the Kurds and was more attractive to them than Maliki. I know about Kirkuk, but didn't see the implications. It strikes me that it is very positive that many Iraqis including Shiites seem to want to move toward a more secular balance - which is remarkable given the long repression of the Shiites. As many have pointed out the sectarian divide is not everything. There is an Itaqi national identity and a tribal underatory that crosses and complicates the three groups.

I want to add one other point here. These elections show me what I have felt all along - that the left was wrong that Middle Easterners are incapable of democracy and don't really want it and that Bush and many of his top people like Wolfiwitz 'misunderestimated' how difficult it would be.

Posted by Lorenz Gude at March 25, 2010 10:56 AM ET:

There is a more in depth analysis here http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100325/REVIEW/100321905/1008/art

I get the impression that the negotiations are about to begin. I really enjoy close elections but would be less nervous if Iraqi democracy was a little better established. Still the will to democracy is clearly strong.