Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Ayad Allawi Edges Out P.M. Nouri al-Maliki

Posted in Iraq by Dan on March 28, 2010

The wait in Iraq is over.  According to official results from Iraqi press, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has edged out the incumbent P.M. Nouri al-Maliki in the parliamentary elections.

And boy what a close election it was.  Allawi’s coalition barely managed to defeat Maliki’s State of Law umbrella group (Allawi received 91 seats to Maliki’s 89).  In many ways, this 2 seat difference bears similarities to the Bush-Gore saga that plagued the United States for months.  Maliki is already complaining about voter fraud and intimidation, and his camp for the last 24 hours has been calling for a recount across the country.

This may be construed as both good and bad.  On the one hand, Maliki’s unwillingness to accept the tally shows how difficult it will be for Allawi to forge a functioning coalition government in the next few months.  Maliki may not cooperate, and the other Shia parties that were left in the dust may resort to violence on the street if their interests are not met.  Yet on the other hand, the fact that Iraq’s election was so close for so long shows the maturation of Iraqi democracy.  It sounds cliché, but millions of Iraqis braved the violence in order to stand in line and cast their ballots for a more hopeful future.  And from the looks of it, Iraqis have a wide range of interests.

Perhaps the most important success that we can take from this election is the contest’s legitimacy.  As far as I can tell, this is the first time that all main sectarian groupings (Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds) voted in mass, which is a far and welcome cry from the 2006 parliamentary election (when most Sunnis boycotted the vote entirely).

What about the victor?  Well, Allawi’s triumph is a very significant development for the United States.  Compared to the other candidates, Allwai is vehemently anti-Iranian.  Tehran’s proxies in Iraq, including the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and parts of al-Maliki’s government, were trounced by a broad and cross-sectarian list of politicians.  In fact, the sectarian and religious parties that used to dominate Iraqi politics are quickly being replaced by parties that take on a more nationalistic tone.  And with nationalism at an all-time high, disengagement from Iraq is that much easier for the White House.

There is still a long way to go.  Iraq’s political wrangling has only just begun.  Allawi still has to bargain behind closed doors with the Kurds to form a semi-functional government, which could be months in the making. But if the final tally is any indication, Iraqis may be moving on from sectarian division.

P.S: Let’s not forget that 40 people died in twin bombings, just as the votes were being counted.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of the Economist**


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9 Responses

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  1. Daniel van Loenen said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    This is all very positive news:
    – democracy has definitely taken root in Iraq
    – Islamic fundamentalism has not

    The future of Iraq may be much brighter than most in the region.

  2. marph67 said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I hope that the next government will not become a mammoth coalition of all, but of only two big winners. Success of this new emerging democracy depends on having oppositions in the next parliament. If not, decision making process will become procrastinated, and this will alienate voters and derail the government from functioning.

    • Commonsensical said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      @marph67

      “I hope that the next government will not become a mammoth coalition of all, but of only two big winners.”

      This would be very very difficult if not impossible because u have to get the Sadrists and Kurds in the same camp! Even then going by estimates on the rigut numbers don’t work.

  3. Tomsiv said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    The best thing for Iraq would be for the main party in goverment and the main opposition party to be secular. So lets hope Allawi and Maliki don’t form a goverment together.

    • marph67 said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Tomsiv
      Post conflict election is hardly a time to ignore your contenders. The option is for Allawi and Maliki to form the new government, others needs to accept their role as active oppositions. Democracy doesn’t work without active oppositions. However, I fear Iraq’s neighbouring regimes may continue to derail this new emerging democracy.

  4. Scottish Economist said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    The outcome is so finely divided that it looks as if will be impossible to do the math of coalition building without projecting the outcome of the complex weighting scheme of allocating parliamentary seats. What a nightmare! How did we leave them with a proportional representation system instead of first-past-the-post, district-based voting?

  5. anan said, on March 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Please forgive the correction.

    This is the 4th national election with heavy Sunni Arab participation.

    77% or 78% of all Iraqi voters voted on 12.15.05. By contrast only maybe 62% voted this year . . . low by Iraqi standards.

    • Dan said, on March 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

      I’m not sure that your assessment is correct. Most of the Sunni community boycotted the 05′ parlimentary elections in a sign of protest. In fact, in January 2005, the Iraqi Electoral Commission reported a 2 percent voting turnout in Anbar Province; the largest of the Sunni provinces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_legislative_election,_January_2005).

      Last week, Anbar Province reported a voting rate of 61 percent, which is a significant improvement over the 2005 results (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/0309/Ahead-of-Iraq-election-results-news-reports-say-Sunni-Kurd-turnout-strong). This is only one province…many of Iraq’s Sunni neighborhoods came to the polls for a variety of reasons (unseat Maliki, challenge Shia coalitions, etc).

      Like I said before, this is the first time that all major sectarian groupings voted in mass. The overall voting percentage may be lower than four years ago, but this does not take into account hidden characteristics, like this year’s diversity of the Iraqi electorate. As a matter of principle, I have to say that this year’s contest is much more democratic than the one that took place in 05. A democracy is only as strong as its participants, and from the looks of the voters’ demography (Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds stood in line together to cast their ballots), Iraqi democracy is showing real signs of maturation.

      Let’s wait and see if it sticks. P.M. Maliki seems intent to stop it at all costs.

      • anan said, on March 30, 2010 at 12:56 am

        I would prefer to discuss this offline.

        It is true that the 1.30.05 election had a perhaps 57% to 58% turnout; and was boycotted by many Sunni Arabs (although many Sunni Arabs in Baghdad voted; as well as some in Diyala.) Even then, however, close to 30% of Salahadin residents voted. Al Anbar turnout was 2% as you noted.

        However, the 10.15.05 election had high Sunni Arab participation. This is why the Iraqi constitution barely got approved even though probably more than 95% of Shiites and more than 95% of Kurds voted for it.

        12.15.05 had astronomical participation, with probably higher Sunni Arab turnout than Shiite turnout. Turnout in Al Anbar province was close to 90%. Nation wide turnout was 77% or 78%.

        Those elections coincided with Iraq’s neighbors beefing up their support of Iraqi militias in their attempt to destroy Iraqi democracy and weaken their Iraqi enemies;

        Dan, Iraqi elections were broadly representative. This is why so many Arabs tried so hard to destroy the Iraqi government.


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