The Candidate Lists Are Out: Basra More Fragmented, Sadrists Pursuing Several Strategies?
By Reidar Visser (www.historiae.org)
22 December 2008
[In the updated version of this page official contestant numbers for the parties have been added, followed by "control numbers" which appear to be used mainly for internal purposes by the Iraqi electoral commission.]
So far, it has been difficult to discuss the upcoming provincial elections in Iraq because only the names of the parties and the party leaders have been made public. But now the Iraqi elections commission has published the candidate lists for individual governorates, showing which parties will run where, as well as the names of all persons on each list.
With regard to the far south – Basra, Maysan and Dhi Qar – several trends stand out:
• There are many new faces on the lists of some of the established parties. In Basra, both Fadila (list 174/550) and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, coalition list 290/C14) have changed almost all their candidates from 2005, with only a couple of exceptions in each case.
Especially interesting is the question of Sadrist participation in the south. There have been lots of rumours, including suggestions that Sadrists would run on the list of Fattah al-Shaykh (coalition 459/C25), or even find back to their one-time ally Nuri al-Maliki and his Daawa party. In the end, it seems that the Sadrists will pursue multiple strategies and that overall there should be ample possibilities for Sadrist participation. Pro-Sadrist options appear to include:
• The pro-Sadrist Risaliyun (304/439), who will run in Maysan, Najaf, Babel and Diyala.
In other words, barring any additional “security operations” by Maliki there should be good prospects for participation by these marginalised groups in the south. The Sadrists are often portrayed in the Western media as an essentially destructive force; it is often forgotten that had it not been for parliamentary pressure by the Sadrists, there probably would have been no local elections at all.
Also, it would be premature to speculate on the outcome of the elections in the south before the Basra regionalism cat is out of the bag some time in mid-January. If the demand for a referendum to form a federal region in Basra keeps its momentum through securing enough signatures, many of the smaller, Basra-specific parties (411/515, 251/752) as well as Fadila may improve their chances of a good result on election day. Conversely, should the initiative fail, the race is more open. The problem with many of the new parties is that while they challenge the establishment, they mostly do so separately, without coalescing into bigger units. Additionally, independents, of whom there are a few, face the problem of a voting system that gives preference to lists (where voters know for sure that their votes will be transferred to someone else on the list if their candidate of choice has already received enough votes). In that sort of scenario, the already-powerful may easily exploit the situation to emerge as the least fragmented force, with Maliki right now appearing to be in the ascendancy at the expense of Hakim, and with Bulani as a possible outsider.
In The Washington Post, a jubilant John McCain recently proclaimed, “Iraqi politics is increasingly taking on the messy but exhilarating quality of a functioning democracy.”
Also on this subject: The Map of Electoral Coalitions South of Baghdad Is Taking Shape
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