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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Tue: Who Won?
Parties Rush to Claim Victory, Post-Electoral Alliances Decide Ultimate Victors
By AMER MOHSEN 02/02/2009 6:13 PM ET
Now that the provincial elections' results are starting to leak, indicating wide gains for Maliki and his Da'wa party alliance, a two-front dynamic has begun: parties trying to shed a positive interpretation on their results (and claiming contradicting outcomes,) and a hustle and bustle of political maneuvers that aim at forming ruling alliances in the newly-elected provincial councils. The latter process is extremely important: little matters if a certain list (say, Maliki’s) won a plurality of votes – and, consequently, council seats – in a given province; when no party can command an absolute majority of seats (which seems to be the case in most southern provinces where the vote was widely dispersed between competing list,) a majority alliance will likely form and elect a governor from its ranks. Therefore, parties that did well in the elections could still find themselves excluded from effective rule and decision-making if smaller blocs coalesce against them and form a majority.

In some cases, deals were struck prior to the elections with parties committing to form a common bloc in the future provincial council. One such deal was revealed yesterday in Najaf, consisting of an agreement between Ayad 'Allawi’s Iraqi List and the Sadrist-backed Ahrar List to form a majority coalition in the council – along with a few smaller parties – once the final results are announced. Az-Zaman quoted the leader of the Iraqi List in Najaf, Waheed al-'Isawi, as saying that “a majority bloc” will be formed under the leadership of the Sadrists in the provincial council (Grouping the pro-Sadrist Ahrar, 'Allawi’s Iraqi List, a coalition of independent politicians and ex-Premier al-Ja'fari’s Islah party.)

Al-'Isawi also said that Sadrists had asked Ayad 'Allawi to replicate the same coalition in all Iraqi provinces, a claim that remains unconfirmed. Az-Zaman, however, headlined with a prediction that “('Allawi’s) Iraqi List is gravitating towards alliances that will change the electoral situation in the provinces.” Iraqi List MPs who were contacted by the paper, however, did not confirm or deny the news, claiming that “it was too early” to speak of post-electoral coalitions when the results have not been known and announced yet.

On the other hand, parties that did not fare well with the voters are expressing their openness to political coalitions in the hope of limiting their political losses and maintaining a position of power in the new councils. The Islamic Party chairman in Anbar, who may have lost his grasp over the province to a tribal coalition, announced according to a local news agency that he is ready “to enter into alliances with any political entity that wishes to cooperate with it.”

Al-Hakeem’s SIIC, thought to be the other big loser of the elections, issued a statement according to the Iraqi Independent Press Agency (IPA) defending the party’s performance in the elections and calling for “openness and sharing (of power) between the factions that won, as well as those that did not win (!)” It also spoke of “wide-ranging coalitions and alliances” that will follow the announcement of the results.

The statement claimed that the party’s list “and the independents” did extremely well in the elections, “garnering first or second place in 11 out of 14 provinces where the elections took place.” It also predicted that the SIIC may achieve 20-25% of the total number of council seats in all of Iraq, a stark contrast with prevailing “leaks” that expect a significant defeat for al-Hakeem’s lists.

It should be pointed out that all leaked results and estimates cannot be trusted until official tallies are announced sometime later this week. Parties that were rumored to have done badly, such as the Islamic Party and the SIIC, rushed today to issue their own version of the results, leading to a proliferation of contradictory tallies. For example, al-Hayat places al-Hakeem’s lists at second place behind Maliki’s in most southern provinces, while az-Zaman insists that the SIIC was not among the top three in these districts.

Al-Jazeera spoke of “a race to victory announcements” among the competitors, with government officials entering the fray. Government spokesman 'Ali al-Dabbagh announced that Maliki’s coalition is heading for a massive victory in the south, giving credibility to the leaks. Government-owned As-Sabah, however, refrained from publishing specific results, contenting to say that “the political map will change” after the dust of the elections has settled.


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