Picture: Reuters

Picture: Reuters

As the May parliamentary elections draw closer, Iraq’s political parties have started campaigning in earnest. There is little to distinguish their political programmes. As has been the case in previous elections, this will be a contest of personalities split largely along sectarian and ethnic lines rather than a battle of ideas or political visions.

On 20 February, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced the final line-up of parties and alliances, even some groups begged it to extend the deadline to allow them to continue their deal-making.

The IHEC confirmed that 88 electoral lists, 205 political parties and 27 electoral alliances will take part in the elections. These large numbers demonstrate just how fragmented Iraq’s political landscape remains. Some of these parties — with names like The Revenge of Allah, The National Tribal Current and Iraq, the Territory — are so small that it hardly seems worth the effort.

The lists show, however, that the election will be won through alliances struck after the event. Some Iraqi commentators say no single party or list is strong enough to win more than 50 seats in the 328-seat parliament. The real deal-making will take place after the polls.

The main players

Iraq’s future will depend on eight main alliances. There are two leading Sunni alliances:

  • The al-Wataniya alliance is led by Ayad Allawi, one of Iraq’s deputy presidents. He is Shia, but his secular orientation has enabled him to lead various Sunni blocs over the years.
  • Al-Qarrar al-Iraqi (Iraqi Decision) is led by former head of the federal parliament Osama al-Najayfi, who is also a deputy president.

The Sunnis have again failed to unite under a single banner, with the Sunni vote split between these two alliances and an array of other smaller parties. The Sunnis also failed to come up with any strong new names or fresh faces to contest the polls. It looks highly unlikely that … [article continues] …

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