As a province, Baghdad has the biggest population and therefore gets the biggest share of representative seats in Iraq’s Parliament. And unlike in other provinces, the population is far from homogenous. Campaigning is particularly fierce here and results in the capital city could provide insights into who voters in more uniform provinces will choose.
Baghdad is well known as the “dark horse” of the upcoming general elections, due to be held next week on April 30. With a population of around 9 million, it is the biggest city in Iraq and its people come from every part of Iraq - they represent a wide mix of religious, political and ethnic affiliations.
As the biggest city in the country Baghdad is also allocated the most space in the Iraqi Parliament – 69 seats to be exact, with a quarter of these allocated to female politicians and another two seats allocated to Christian and Chaldean minorities. Just over 3,300 candidates are vying for a place in Parliament – most of them are men; around 1,000 are women.
Which makes Baghdad the best bet and a town of opportunity for candidates – here they all have the opportunity to compete for a quarter of all seats available, no matter what their ethnic or religious allegiance.
This plays a role in shaping local electoral strategies, writes Ahmed Ali in a detailed primer on the Iraqi elections, released this week by the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington.
Baghdad, Ali writes, “will be highly competitive, given its high population and mixed demographic. Furthermore, the changing disposition of Baghdad voters’ political inclinations makes the province more permissive for many parties. As such, elections in Baghdad may provide a lens upon the population.”
Election campaigning in Baghdad was expected to be intense and it has been. And the most intense contest has been between Iraqi politics’ traditional opponents, the Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim parties.