By Reidar Visser.
The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
They have been long in the making but now they are finally published: The lists of 8,100 candidates for Iraq’s 20 April local elections. This is quite a substantial source of 200 plus pages of candidate names, but at least some initial conclusions can be drawn regarding how the battle is shaping up in the various provinces.
One way of looking at the candidates and the competing coalitions is to study which political movements compete in all of the country, and which are limited to particular areas and regions. From that angle, it is clear that only one list fields substantial numbers of candidates throughout the country from Anbar and Nineveh in the north to Basra in the south: The secular Iraqiyya headed by Ayad Allawi. Even before the ballots have been cast, this must be considered something of a triumph for Iraqiyya (list 486), which has shown considerable signs of cracks and internal splits during the political turmoil following the US exit from Iraq in December 2011. Despite rumours of major defections as well as the emergence of actual splinter groups, Iraqiyya continues to muster candidates in Sunni and Shiite areas alike.
Iraqiyya is the only major coalition to do so. Unlike the situation in 2009, the Shiite Islamist parties have decided to form one umbrella Shiite ticket in all areas where the Shiites are minorities (list 472 in Salahaddin, list 463 in Nineveh and list 501 in Diyala) and are not competing at all where there is no significant Shiite electorate (Anbar). A clearer message of sectarian disinterest could hardly have been formulated: These coalitions are no longer even trying to compete for the vote of people of a different sect, quite similar to the well-established ethnic strategy of the Kurds (list 469 across the northern governorates). As for the situation in the Shiite-majority areas south of Baghdad, it is shaping up as a three-way struggle for the Islamist vote between Muwatin or ISCI (411), the expanded State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that is now also featuring the Badr organisation and Fadila (419), and the Sadrist or Ahrar list (473).