Election brought surprises and complications

Sirwan Hussein - KirkukNow

  The parliamentary election in Iraq turned to dispute most of the expectations. It prevented the political blocs from winning the majority of seats, increased Shia votes on the expense of Sunnis and turned the Kurds back to eight years ago. According to the election results of 12 May, no political bloc or alliance could win 60 seats, while it passed well beyond 90 seats in the last election. The formation of the new government requires a number of alliances.   Iraq between two elections More than seven thousand candidates were competing to win one of the 329 seats of Iraqi parliament through 88 political blocs. The turnout was around 11 million out of the total 24 million eligible constitutes, according to Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) statistics, which is to 44.5% of the total voters and amounts to the lowest turnout recorded since 2003.   Ballots were counted and sorted through an electronic system, and most people voted through a biometric card, the first time to be used in the elections. More than nine thousand candidates took part in the previous parliamentary election of late April 2014, for the third tenure of parliament, competing to win of the 328 seats through more than 100 blocs and alliances. However, the turnout was more than 12 million out of 22 million voters, which exceeded 60%. A distinctive feature of this election is the emergence of accumulated tension and complication during the last two weeks, since the election results were announced. Such tension is only gaining further ground still as some of the blocs claim election results were rigged. Such blocs and figures insist on repeating the ballots manually, or in any other case, disbanding the election altogether.

Kirkuk, 12 May 2018, civilians voted for Iraqi parliamentary election under strict security measures. Photo: Karwan Salhi
Kirkuk, 12 May 2018, civilians voted for Iraqi parliamentary election under strict security measures. Photo: Karwan Salhi
Shia is the winner Although the election for the fourth tenure decreased the sectarian appointment of the candidates, compared to the past elections, the only blocs and alliances which won the majority of the seats were led by famous and influential Shia figures. According to IHEC results, the dominant Shia blocs, and alliances led by Shia figures have guaranteed more than 180 seats of parliament, while in the last election, the dominant Shia bloc, the National Alliance, only won 160 seats, with some minor Shia blocs around. The Marching Onward alliance [Sa’eroon], led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, includes the Communist Party of Iraq and some other political parties, and could win 54 seats. al-Sadr had firm popular support due to his support for the widespread protests in the last four years. The second winner in the election was the Conquest alliance [Fatih] led by Hadi al-Amri, the leader of Badr Organization. The alliance includes some Shia parties, and the leaders from the Popular Mobilization Forces,  which have been fighting the Islamic State [ISIS] for some years now.

When compared to the last three parliamentary elections, the lowest turnout was recorded in Iraq

The Victory [Nasr] alliance, led by prime minister Haider al-Abadi, could win 42 seats in parliament and come in the third. The alliance included some candidates from different components of Iraq and was expected to earn more due to defeating ISIS during al-Abadi’s tenure. The fourth was the alliance of the Rule of Law led by the former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, which won 92 seats of parliament in the third tenure. He came only fourth with 26 seats. Another major player of Shia component was National Wisdom alliance, led by cleric Ammar al-Hakim, which won 19 seats. Although Shia bloc was divided when compared to the earlier elections, the alliances that were led by Shia influential figures could win and become significant forces even in Sunni-majority areas, and guarantee seats.

Diyala, 12 May 2018, ballots were counted and sorted through an electronic system. Photo: Hawre Azad
Diyala, 12 May 2018, ballots were counted and sorted through an electronic system. Photo: Hawre Azad
Sunni gains less Sunni forces and alliances once again came short of victory as their votes decreased even further in their areas. The major Sunni alliances won around 50 seats in the fourth tenure, while they won more than 60 setas in the previous election. Sunni political parties and blocs attempted to delay the election until the last possible moment, in the hope of returning the internally displaced people to their home, which were mostly from the Sunni areas.

The Shia-led alliances were able to win seats in Sunni-majority provinces

ISIS overran most Sunni-majority areas in mid-2014 until they were controlled again late last year. However, hundreds of thousands of families from these areas are still displaced. The Iraqi Decision alliance, led by vice president Osama al-Nujaifi and some other Sunni leaders, could only 11 seats, while Salim al-Jabouri, the current parliament speaker, could not secure his seat in parliament. Some Sunni leaders, unlike previous elections, became allies with Shia figures, as some turned to Victory alliance, which set the alliance to come first and win the majority in Ninewa province. Wataniya alliance was led by Ayad Allawi, vice president and former prime minister, who is an influential secular Shia who allies with Sunni figures for years. However, the alliance only won 21 seats. Following them, Diyala Hawiyatuna, Ninewa Hawiyatuna, and some other Sunni blocs could win only 5 to 1 seats. The same story as the previous elections, having many blocs contributed to the decrease their seats in parliament, especially this time, where the election system favoured the dominant blocs by dividing extra votes to them.   Kurds return to the past The number of seats won by Kurdish component is relatively stable, with 44 seats to the provinces of the Kurdistan region. What makes the difference for this component is the seats of the disputed areas, including Kirkuk. According to the results, Kurdish blocs could win 58 seats throughout Iraq, while they could win 62 seats in 2014 election. The current result is closer to the parliamentary election of 2010 for the Kurds, where all Kurdish parties could win 57 out of 325 seats of parliament. A significant reason behind the decrease of Kurdish votes is the developments of 16 October 2017, where the federal forces returned to Kirkuk and other disputed areas through an operation under the pretext of ‘imposing law’. The development ended with the immediate withdrawal of peshmerga forces.

Some Sunni leaders, including the current parliament speaker, were not able to reach parliament

After that date, the influence of Kurds waned after losing their control over them, some since 2003, and some others since 2014. The developments came after the emerging complication in the relationship of Baghdad and Erbil, due to the independence referendum of the Kurdistan region which was conducted in the disputed areas as well. The referendum was a process which was opposed by Baghdad and the international community. In the last election, Kurds were able to win 18 seats in the disputed areas, but it lost four of that number this time, two in Kirkuk, one in Ninewa and another in Diyala. Along with the developments of 16 October, the division of Kurdish bloc and KDP’s boycott in Kirkuk, which used to have 63,000 votes, contributed to the decrease. Kurdish officials were expecting a harder fall, and thus, the result is viewed as a surprise by some political parties. Among Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party won 25 seats, the second in the rank was the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan with 18 seats. After that, Change Movement won 5 seats, the newly-formed New Generation with four seats, while the Kurdistan Islamic Group, Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the newly-formed Alliance for Democracy and Justice could each win two seats. However, four Kurdish parties, similar to other entities of Kirkuk and Baghdad, are disgruntled with the results and believe them to be rigged.

Kirkuk, 12 May 2018, disgruntled people protest against the election results. Photo: Karwan Salhi
Kirkuk, 12 May 2018, disgruntled people protest against the election results. Photo: Karwan Salhi
Components won more than their quota According to Iraq’s parliamentary election law, nine seats are reserved to the components of Christian, Yazidi, Shabak, Faili, Sabia Mandawi. However, they won more than 9. While only one seat is reserved through the quota system to Yazidi component in Ninewa province, they could win two more seats through their participation in other blocs and alliances.

Compared to the last election, Kurdish political parties lost four seats in Kirkuk and the disputed areas

Shabak was another component which could win two seats of the Iraqi parliament, one through the quota system, and another through another alliance. Along with five seats of parliament to them through the quota system, the Christians could win some other seats through other alliances and blocs.

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