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.
Whereas the previous list of candidates for Iraq’s 20 April local elections had 8,099 names, the updated list published today has 8,138 names, meaning 39 more candidates have been approved following appeals processes, including de-Baathification appeals.
The changes are too small for elaborate statistical analysis similar to the one that was possible for the initial list, but the revised table of excluded candidates does show the same tendencies as regards conflicts between political entities and the elections commission IHEC as before the appeals process. The Sunni-majority governorates have been subjected to most exclusion of candidates, and the Iraqiyya list is also the main casualty.
It is noteworthy, though, that both Saleh al-Mutlak and Usama al-Nujayfi have been somewhat more successful with their appeals than Ayyad Allawi’s mainline Iraqiyya list. Some symbolically important appeals successes include the reinstatement of the top candidate of the Mutlak list in Baghdad and number 3 of Nujayfi in Nineveh. Conversely the top candidate of Iraqiyya in Anbar and its number 5 in Nineveh and number 6 in Karbala remain excluded. Maliki had only problem with a single candidate (in Basra); he was reinstated.
Since Mutlak and Nujayfi had relatively few candidates excluded in the first place, it is perhaps not worthwhile to push this finding too far. Politically, of course, Mutlak is at the moment engaging with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by returning to cabinet (alongside the Hall faction), whreas Nujayfi remains in opposition to Maliki (Iraqiyya has reportedly brought the delay of local elections in Nineveh and Anbar to the attention of the federal supreme court).
Nonetheless, Mutlak’s relative success in the reinstatement round along with his return to cabinet yesterday following his role in the recent passage of the annual budget in parliament with Maliki’s first “political majority” triumph of significance (the slim majority of 168 reportedly also included Free Iraqiyya and White among the Iraqiyya breakaway factions) are indicators of the continuing potential for cooperation between him and Maliki.
Whereas many voices in Washington are critical of the recent passage of the budget in parliament because it was done in opposition to the Kurds, the fact that Mutlak now returns to cabinet in the middle of a crisis between Maliki and the Sadrists is actually not the worst thing that could happen in Iraqi politics.
Still, with the decision by Maliki to run all-Shiite lists in the northern governorates, the chances for there to be much positive bridge-building towards people like Mutlak in the aftermath of the elections, as to some extent happened in 2009, remain limited. That in turn means that Maliki remains faced with the challenge of brining Sunni and secular partners more decisively into his on coalition if he wishes to persevere with the political majority project he so often likes to mention.