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.
The most prominent Shiite Muslim coalition is still that led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This group, the State of Law alliance, has joined forces with a group led by Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussein al-Shahristani, as well as the Badr organization.
The Badr Organization was once the armed military wing of another important Shiite Muslim party, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, or ISCI. After becoming a political party under the auspices of the ISCI and then defecting from there, it has now thrown its lot in with al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki does seem to be gathering up the more extreme Shiite Muslim parties – he’s also backed by the League of Righteous, an armed militia recently turned political - while those who have grown more moderate and who have called for reconciliation with Iraq’s Sunni Muslims are competing in this election independently of him. That includes the ISCI and other parties such as those affiliated with the equally significant-to-Shiite-voters Sadrist movement.
And al-Maliki has another cunning tactic for Baghdad too: He is also coming up with new campaign alliances and they’re entering the election race under different names to compete in Baghdad. This is apparently because the system used to calculate the election’s winners, known as the Sainte-Laguë system, tends to favour medium-sized parties over very small or very large ones. The Sainte-Laguë system stops larger parties from gobbling up the votes smaller parties have won, if the smaller parties haven’t won enough votes to pass a certain threshold.
There are a number of these new alliances that align themselves with al-Maliki and they’ve all chosen to compete in the elections in lists independent of the State of Law coalition. This includes groups such as Fair State, the Union for a Comprehensive Renaissance, the Virtue coalition, the White party, the People’s Gathering, the Wafaa coalition and Sadiqun (or The Truthful), the party associated with the League of the Righteous militia group.