By ISW Iraq Team
Several notable political developments took place over the last week. For the Iraqi Shi’a political groups, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) formally nominated Maliki for a third term. The SLA’s primary strategy has also consisted of increasing its momentum by enlisting the support of political groups that in most cases have historically supported Maliki. This is intended to bolster Maliki’s chances for a third term. The Sadrists continue with their anti-Maliki stance while offering an alternative form to Maliki’s “majority government” approach. Instead of a majority government, the Sadrists are offering a “national unity” model. The Sadrists’ success is certainly not guaranteed and will depend on their capability to cobble together a consistent anti-Maliki front. Meanwhile, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) is maintaining a neutral posture while building influence through high-level engagements led by its leader, Ammar al-Hakim.
For the Iraqi Sunni political groups, there are consistent complaints with regards to the accuracy of the results of the elections in the crucial provinces of Anbar and Kirkuk. The most prominent Iraqi Sunni group, Mutahidun, continues to reject a third term for Maliki while indicating that another candidate from the pan-Shi’a National Alliance (NA) would be acceptable.
For the Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Kurdistan President and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, stated that the Iraqi Kurds still have strong objections to a third Maliki term and that they will seek to find a “real partner” in the upcoming government in Baghdad. This statement underlines Barzani’s continued tensions with Maliki and may become a consistent negotiating position for the Iraqi Kurds especially in light of last week’s sale of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to international buyers. Barzani also raised the possibility of a public referendum to determine a “new pattern” of relations with Baghdad if Maliki becomes Prime Minister. This escalating rhetoric is meant to raise the level of demands by the Iraqi Kurds prior to the commencement of full-fledged government-formation negotiations.
It is too early to tell if Maliki can secure a third term as his opponents are regrouping after the announcement of the results. At any rate, these dynamics indicate that government-formation will likely be a protracted process after the final results are certified.
Iraqi Shi’a Political Groups:
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the State of Law Alliance (SLA)
Theme: Formally nominate Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a third term while attempting to maintain Iraqi Shi’a unity. Importantly, the SLA seeks to amplify momentum by announcing alliances with long-standing SLA-leaning groups.
MAY 23: The components of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance held a meeting and nominated PM Maliki for the premiership in the coming government. (Al Mada Press)
MAY 23: Member of the State of Law Alliance (SLA) of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Mohammed al-Saihud, stated that the alliance sent its program pertaining to the next government to the political blocs. Regarding current SLA efforts in government-formation, he stated that the alliance is working on restructuring the pan-Shi’a National Alliance (NA) and “being [open]” to other political groups to form a “majority government.” (Shafaq News)
MAY 25: A delegation from the Efficiencies and Masses bloc that won 3 seats in the parliamentary elections visited Prime Minister Maliki and announced their joining the SLA in addition to supporting a third Maliki term. The delegation included Haitham al-Juburi, Ihsan al-Awadi, and former Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bolani. (Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 25-26: The Maliki-leaning Solidarity bloc- which has one seat- in Dhi Qar province joined the SLA and agreed to nominate PM Maliki for a third term. Furthermore, governor of Najaf and leader of the Loyalty to Iraq bloc, Adnan al-Zurfi, announced that his bloc joined the SLA and supports PM Maliki for a third term. Loyalty to Iraq won two seats in Najaf. (Al-Sumaria News, Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 26: Member of Salah ad-Din National Alliance and Maliki supporter Minister of Sports and Youth Jassim Mohammed Jaafar announced that four incoming members of the Council of Representatives from Ninewa and Salah ad-Din have joined the SLA and will support a third term for Prime Minister Maliki. All four members have established ties with the SLA. (Al-Sumaria News)
Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)
Theme: Exhibit neutrality while aiming to build influence through high-level engagements.
MAY 24-26: Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar al-Hakim met in his office in Baghdad with the leader of the Arabiyya Alliance, Saleh al-Mutlaq. On May 24, Hakim met with the leader of Mutahidun Alliance and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Osama al-Nujaifi. According to statements released by Hakim’s office, the discussions focused on political developments and elections results, in addition to “regional and global” issues. (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq)
The Sadrist Trend
Theme: Continued anti-Maliki position and countering SLA majoritarian approach by proposing national unity government.
MAY 25: Hakim al-Zamili, a member in the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, stated that the bloc will enter the opposition should PM Maliki be given a third term, because it does not want to participate in another “weak government.” Zamili continued by stating that the bloc is negotiating with other political formations in order to form a “partnership government.” He stated that the bloc is waiting until the ratification of election results to announce its alliances. (Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 26: According to Jawad al-Juburi, a member in the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, the bloc will not accept a third term for Prime Minister Maliki due to the performance of the government during his tenure. Juburi stated that the bloc will negotiate with all blocs, parties, and alliances in order to form a government. (Al-Sumaria News)
Iraqi Sunni Political Groups:
Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Mutahidun Alliance
Theme: Accepting Prime Minister from Iraqi Shi’a National Alliance but rejecting third Maliki term.
26 MAY: Leader in the Mutahidun Alliance Mohammed al-Khalidi stated that Mutahidun has been conducting ongoing talks with political blocs in order to form a government. Khalidi added that discussions have taken place to form an alliance between the Wataniyya List, the Arabiyya Alliance, the Kurdistani Alliance, the Mowatin bloc (ISCI), and the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, as well as others, excluding the SLA. He added that the alliance will be announced once election results are ratified and the alliance reaches 200 CoR members. Khalidi added that Mutahidun refuses a third term for PM Maliki and expressed willingness to accept “any” other nominee from the NA. (Al-Sumaria News)
The Iraqi Kurds:
Theme: Anti-Maliki in light of recent Iraqi Kurdistan oil sales to international buyers.
MAY 27: President of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barazani stated that the Iraqi Kurds will conduct a popular poll in Iraqi Kurdistan in order to determine the relationship with the central government if PM Maliki won a third term. (Sharq al-Awsat Newspaper)
Theme: Iraqi Sunni groups in crucial provinces question the accuracy of the results.
19 MAY: The head of the Coalition of Kirkuk Arabs, Omar al-Juburi, stated in an interview that the coalition will challenge the election results because the coalition believes that the results are inaccurate. Juburi continued by saying that election monitors in the south and west of Kirkuk noticed high turnout and were surprised that the coalition did not receive more seats in the Council of Representatives (CoR). (Al Mada Press)
25 MAY: A number of political groups in Anbar questioned the turnout rates in the province citing it as a sign of fraud. According to the head of the Loyalty to Anbar bloc, Qassim al-Fahdawi, the province had a 20% voter turnout and reports giving other numbers are untrue. He continued by stating that voter turnout did not exceed 10% in precincts for displaced persons. Member of the Arabiyya Alliance Rafi Abdul Karim also stated that voter turnout was not greater than 22% in the province. He stated that there was a 9% voter turnout rate in voting centers for displaced persons and that the votes in these centers were rigged by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Anbar in favor of an “influential bloc” in the province. A member of Unity of Iraq’s Sons, Taha Abdul Ghani, also stated that widespread fraud occurred and that IHEC favored one particular bloc in the province. (Al-Sumaria News)