The early returns from the provincial elections are in. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list came in first in eight of the fourteen provinces that voted including Baghdad, second in Wasit, third in Karbala, fifth in Diyala, and tenth in Salahaddin. They did not win a majority in any province however. That will mean his List will have to form coalitions with other parties to form ruling alliances. Still it was an impressive sweep of the south. Whatever deals the List cuts to rule, Maliki will be in much a stronger position to advance his agenda afterwards.
The State of Law list is made up of the Islamic Dawa Party, Dawa Party – Iraq Organization, the Independent Bloc, the Solidarity Bloc, the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen, the Kurdistan Feli Fraternity Movement, and the Shaabani Uprising Bloc 1991. The Islamic Dawa was the first Shiite Islamist party formed in Iraq in the 1950s. They were small and weak after the U.S. invasion, but were able to maneuver themselves into the middleman between the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the Sadrists in parliament. When those two groups could not decide upon a prime minister they selected a member of the Dawa, first Ibrahim al-Jaafari and then Nouri al-Maliki, as a compromise candidate. Since Maliki took office, he has transformed himself from a weak and ineffective politician to a leader to be reckoned with largely through his use of the security forces. He has also moved away from Dawa’s religious roots. The Dawa Party – Islamic Organization is a breakaway from the main Dawa bloc that was formed in Basra. It holds the Ministry of Education. The Independent Bloc is led by Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, and is known for being close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Solidarity Bloc used to be part of the United Iraqi Alliance, but left in 2007. It is made up of independent Shiites, and led by former Minister of National Security Qasem Dawood from the interim Iraqi government. The Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkomen is led by Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite Turkomen. His party too was once a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, and holds two seats in parliament. The Kurdish Feli Fraternity Movement is a Shiite Kurdish party formed in exile in Iran during the Saddam years. It had ministries in both the Maliki and Jaafari governments. Two Shiites that fought against Saddam in 1991 after the Gulf War formed the Shaabani Uprising Bloc 1991, hence its name. They hold one seat in parliament. Together the State of Law ran candidates in Baghdad, Babil, Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Wasit, Maysan, Basra, Diyala, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Dhi Qar. They are united by a call for law and order, a strong central government, the end of militias, and opposition to the Kurds and the Supreme Council. It was formed around October 2008.
The List’s victories will allow Maliki to advance three of his goals. First he will have a strong base in the provinces to build upon before the parliamentary elections that are due towards the end of the year. Second his List will control several councils and governors that will support a strong central government with him at its head. Finally, the defeat of the Fadhila Party and the Supreme Council could mean the end of any calls for autonomous regions in the south. Maliki is probably also counting on Sunni parties to defeat the Kurds in Ninewa and Salahaddin, which will limit their plans of annexing northern regions. His main rivals will thus be weakened. He will still have to negotiate with other parties and stave off any no-confidence votes in the legislature, but he will probably be at the peak of his power.
Early Returns For State Of Law List’s Finishes In January 2009 Provincial Election
Dhi Qar 23.1%
Alsumaria, “Iraq elections leaks say Al Maliki ahead,” 2/2/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Maliki Leads 7 Parties Alliance in Provincial Elections – MP,” 11/13/08
- “Maliki’s List Advancing in Basra’s Initial Vote Count,” 2/2/09
International Crisis Group, “Iraq’s Provincial Elections: The Stakes,” 1/27/09
Niqash, “state of law coalition,” 1/28/09
Paley, Amit, “In Iraq’s Provincial Elections, Main Issue Is Maliki Himself,” Washington Post, 1/17/09
Al-Sabah, “Maliki, Four Slates Lead in Nine Provinces, Results Say,” 2/4/09
Said, Yahia Khairi, “Political Dynamics in Iraq within the Context of the ‘Surge,’” Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08