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.
At the end of a long and dramatic week in Iraq, the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) has released partial results of the local elections based on a count of 87-90% of the vote. At this point there is neither a formal seat distribution nor information relating to the electoral fortunes of individual candidates in accordance with the personal vote option.
Also, it should be stressed that as of midnight 25 April, no official IHEC statistics had been published online. Accordingly, the source base for what follows are Iraqi journalistic accounts of the numbers as read out by IHEC at their press conference. The most comprehensive one appears to be from the AIN news agency, but it does include some very obvious errors and numbers that don’t add up, so the following approximate calculations of percentages of votes to the major parties must be taken as nothing more than rough indications:
Among the trends that stand out in this material are the following:
- The relative success of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in defending his strong electoral result from the previous local elections in 2009. Whereas his State of Law coalition has lost some seats in many governorates, it is still the biggest seat-getter almost everywhere in Baghdad and the south. Apart from the capital, Maliki has particularly impressive results in Basra and the far south. Still, the fact that some seats have been lost despite a broader coalition of Shiite parties (Fadila, Badr and the Jaafari wing of the Daawa all ran with Maliki this time) indicates that there has been a certain disadvantage of incumbency at work.
- ISCI, as represented in the Muwatin coalition, has made something of a comeback compared with its dismal performance in 2009. This is most pronounced outside the shrine cities, in provinces like Basra and Wasit. The comeback is all the more impressive given the relatively recent split with Badr, and could perhaps testify to a relatively successful process of reorganisation on the part of ISCI in the wake of the break-up.
- The Sadrists appear to be at a standstill, not making significant progress apart from winning back Maysan and gaining some new seats in Wasit.
- The Mid-Euphrates generally sees higher political fragmentation than the far south of the Shiite-majority areas, with much more room for local lists – including most spectacularly in Najaf where a local list came first.
- The strong performance of the all-Shiite list in Diyala is quite remarkable and possibly a testament to increased sectarian friction in the area. The figures for the Kurdish list in Diyala seem too low in this source and are contradicted by other sources based on earlier counts.
- With respect to the secular and Sunni camp, the single biggest difference with 2009 is the disappearance of the Sunni Islamist Tawafuq coalition, whose members are this time enrolled in various factions of the Iraqiyya movement, including most prominently Mutahhidun headed by Usama al-Nujayfi.
- In Baghdad, Nujayfi’s Mutahhidun has emerged as the second biggest list, thus inheriting the role of Tawafuq and to some extent marginalising the mainline Iraqiyya faction on its own home turf.
- In the other Sunni-majority governorates where elections are held – Diyala and Salahhadin – it is noteworthy that there is also considerable fragmentation and local lists have greater success than Allawi. In Salahaddin, Jamahir al-Iraqiyya was the biggest winner, whereas in Diyala, Iraqiyyat Diyala came first. The latter reportedly includes people closer to the Mutlak and Nujayfi camps.
It is now expected that final results will be published in two weeks, when the complete seat configuration as well as the identity of each new councillor will be known. At that point, the process of forming new local governments across Iraq can also begin.