The impasse in Baghdad is partly the result of a logjam of sectarian interests. There are also a fair number of politicians, who because of the sectarian nature of the coalitions, are stooges of Teheran. A new election law could sweep the logjam away in a flood, with the stooges in the bargain. Electoral reform is supremely important for long term success. It is the linchpin of “reconciliation”.
Do you agree that the new provincial election law just passed by the Iraqi Parliament today could have this kind of effect?
The Belmont Club: The key to Iraqi reconciliation
I think Wretchard makes a very relevant point, but do not necessarily know for sure whether it will have the scope he’s suggesting. Here’s why:
1. The new law(s) relate to provincial elections, and the brands of Iranian stooge that can do the most to harm stability and reconciliation are in the national government.
2. From what I understand, the law is vague about whether each election will still be a closed party list or whether they’ll vote for specific candidates; the provinces are supposed to work it out individually with the UN. So we might see more of the same in some areas, especially if/where they can’t get a census together by October, which is complicated by a lot of population shifts because of displaced persons.
3. Even if it is not a closed list, a lot of the same people will get to power who have de facto power anyway, such as SIIC guys in the south and Awakening folks in the West. The specific candidate version will have more implications if and when it gets to the national level.
But he makes a good point, depending on how this plays out and is executed, and if modifications influence national elections in 2009.
I think this is more huge news because it shows that folks in the COR are willing to let the new Sunni leadership into government, as well as decentralize governance to the sort of weak federalism that Thomas Jefferson might get a kick out of, and that will actually get things done like sorely needed reconstruction.
Thanks for the valuable analysis Bill.
No problem. BTW, I’m trying to get a copy of the law itself which will shed light on both the specificity of elections and the distribution of power (federal/provincial). I’ll know more then.
Thanks for treating this issue. This is a lot better than most analysis of Iraqi politics in the English-language media. But I have a few points to add –
– The formal English name for Hakim’s party is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, not SIIC. They came out with a clarification on the English name when they realized the connotations SIIC had in English. For details, see the Int’l Crisis Group study on the Supreme Council.
– Sadr has 30 seats, not 28. He has 28 on the UIA list, but the two members of the Risaliun list are also Sadrists. (I know, WaPo has made the same mistake.)
– I believe that the Islamic Virtue Party – more commonly just called the Fadhila Party – left the UIA not over US forces but their marginalization inside the UIA by Hakim, and Hakim’s attempt to throw them out of power in Basra. Fadhila is anti-US, but this is not the reason they left.
– In re to Dawa: remember that the 25 Dawa seats are split between the “mainline” Dawa to which Maliki belongs and the 13-seat Dawa Party – Organization of Iraq led by Abu Karim Anzi. The latter has not formally left the UIA, but is not supporting Maliki in parliament. Also, the 12 members of Maliki’s Dawa faction are split between him and Ibrahim Jaafari, who is trying to throw Maliki out of party leadership.
– The Iraqi Accord Front (al-jibhat al-tuwaffuk) had 44 seats until a couple weeks ago when nine independent Sunnis left to join Salih Mutlaq’s Iraqi Dialogue Front. That leaves Accord with 35 (your translation, “Concord”, is better for “wifaq”, the name of Iyad Allawi’s Wifaq Party, which leads the Iraqi list).
– You are right on in regard to the conflict between the Awakening forces and the Accord Front, especially Tariq Hashemi’s Islamic Party. They hate Hashemi. This is why Accord will not support new elections, and keeps trying to negotiate their way back into the Maliki government, although it has met few of their demands.
– I also agree with Bill’s comment on the provincial elections, except to add that the results could be very different this time because Sadr boycotted the provincial elections before, and Yaqubi has been activitly courting the tribes, so Fadhila could be a force there as well. Also, Allawi’s Wifaq Party could be a force given the widespread tribal resentment at Hakim’s Supreme Council.
Thanks for the feedback. A few things:
You are correct about the Dawa split, and I should have noted the division. If I recall correctly, the Dawa Iraq Organization leadership fled to Lebanon and Syria as opposed to Iran. I’ll add a succinct update.
My sources say Fadhila left because of US involvement, but you could be right. I’d love to see any third party material on this, if you have a link.
Those points aside, the remaining proportions of seats in the piece were obtained from the Iraqi government and State Department diplomats working with the COR, who cautioned that they were approximate because of the constant shifts (this is disclaimed in the piece). Best information available at publication.
Thanks for the comment, very helpful.
I think you did an excellent job with this piece if you are relying on English-sources only, which was my impression. You can get more precise seat totals from the Iraqi parliament website (//www.parliament.iq/index.php), but the English version doesn’t have the lists. And even the Arabic lists occasionally conflict with what is reported in the Arab media (esp. in re to the UIA). As you note, they do shift from time to time, but the lists on the parliament website match media reports about 95% of the time.
Yes, Dawa Org. Iraq went to Syria rather than Iran.
The presence of US forces was an issue for Fadhila, but Yaqubi’s main fight is with Hakim, not the US. I reach that conclusion from reading Yaqubi’s speeches and Arab media reports . I haven’t seen this reported well anywhere in English. Most Arab newspapers don’t have archives, and right now al-Hayat’s (the best source) is down, so I don’t have anything that is readily accessible link-wise.
Thanks again, Bill, for helping us make some sense of Iraqi politics.
In a future post, could you possibly summarize the many political “benchmarks” we keep hearing about? Are the goals being met? Are they reliable barometers of political progress?
Some have been addressed in this piece (i.e. Establish minority rights in Iraqi legislature: met) and the previous installments of this series, though not explicitly in relation to the 18 benchmarks. Those related to legislation will be addressed in the next/last installment, as well as some information on how realistic they are. Not sure if I’ll lay out the 18 explicitly, though that might make a good graphic.
An excellent series thank you laying this all out, and doing so in an easily digestible form.
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