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.
Things are not going too bad in local politics in Iraq: As of this week, all governorates that held provincial elections on 20 April have formed new local governments following certification of the final results in late May – hence more or less on time and in accordance with the legal framework. During the past few days, on top of the councils that were formed last week, new local governments have been seated in Karbala, Muthanna and Diyala.
As with the first batch of new governorate councils, a variety og government-formation dynamics prevailed in the last three councils. Karbala saw the emergence of a “political majority” government led by the State of Law alliance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and various local blocs including that of the sensation from the 2009 elections, Yusuf al-Hububi.
The Sadrists and ISCI remained on the sidelines. Conversely, in Muthanna, Maliki’s allies cut a deal with ISCI to keep the governor position for themselves whereas an ISCI politician became council speaker. Finally, Diyala saw a particularly interesting deal whereby Kurds and a local Iraqiyya list formed the government with the support of the Sadrists – but not the other Shiites with whom they had run on a joint pan-Shiite ticket (mainly State of Law councillors including several from Badr and Fadila).
This makes for the following table of all the new 12 councils elected on 20 April:
Beyond the broad three-way classification of “consensus” and “political majority” (pro-Maliki and anti-Maliki), there are further nuances in this picture. For example, in Basra, ISCI in principle held the votes to exclude Maliki and more or less dictated the terms whereby the popular governor from Maliki’s list was given the consolation prize of the council speakership. In Maysan, perhaps the governorship given to the Sadrists more than anything reflects a longstanding association between the Sadrists and that governorate.
In sum, the outcome of the local government formation is a mixed bag for Maliki. He keeps control of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and consolidates his position in Mid-Euphrates governorates where ISCI was formerly strong. On the other hand, the loss of Baghdad and Basra must be painful, and with additional marginalisation experienced in Wasit and Diyala there should be plenty to think about as the parliamentary elections of 2014 approach.
Meanwhile, delayed elections for local councils in Anbar and Nineveh are being held today. Much is a stake in an area that is sandwiched between rising Sunni militancy in neighbouring Syria and a Baghdad government with which attempts at rapprochement have so far been quite ambiguous. Provisional results should be expected next week.
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