Centralizing Parties advancing in Iraq’s Provincial Election Results

The big news out of the leaks from Iraq’s vote counters is that parties seeking a strong central government appear to have won big in the elections for provincial governments. There had been a split last fall. Some parties, such as the Kurdistan Alliance and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, wanted Iraq to have a very weak central government, which would cede a great deal of Federal power to provincial confederacies such as the Kurdistan Regional Government. In contrast, the centralizers in the Da’wa (Islamic Mission Party) and among the Sunni Arabs, want a strong central state. It is the latter that appear to be coming out on top . . .

Mcclatchy reports that turn-out in the Iraqi provincial elections is now thought to be 51%, which some observers are calling disappointing. Security is still very bad in Diyala, Ninevah, Salahuddin, Baghdad and Babil provinces. And, a certain amount of voter apathy has set in, since the previous elections were followed by a downward spiral in violence and failure of elected officials to provide services.

The USG Open Source Center translates Iraqi television reports about the returns and leaks of early trends. First, the important northern province of Ninevah, with its capital at Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city (pop. 1.7 mn.)

Sharqiya television reported at 1 pm Iraqi time on Sunday,

“Sources in the Ninawa Governorate have said that the National Al-Hadba List has made a landslide win in the Mosul city garnering 90% of votes, not to mention scoring high in other cities in spite of rigging attempts against it. The sources said that the list won more than 60 percent of the seats in the governorate, noting that the big turn out of citizens to vote was meant to preserve the civilian identity.”

The Hadba’ Party comprises largely secular Arab nationalists and some local tribal forces. If the report of their big win is true, it is significant in two ways. First, Mosul had been a stronghold of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, the ancestor of the Iraqi Islamic Party, but that fundamentalist trend may have been rejected by voters in favor of secular nationalism. Second, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Kurdish troops in the Iraqi army had provided the carapace of Mosul’s security, and had acted as stalking horses for a take-over of Ninevah or parts of it by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Most observers had long held that Ninevah was largely Sunni Arab and that Kurds were a minority, and this election could prove it. AP notes that if Hadba’ won big, that might permanently derail Kurdistan’s hopes of annexing this territory. It could also give the Arab Iraqis courage in their fight to stop Kurdistan from absorbing Kirkuk Province, which also has large Arab and Turkmen populations.

Sharqiya added, according to OSC, “The Aswat al-Iraq News Agency based in Arbil cited Athil al-Nujayfi, leader of the Al-Hadba List in the Mosul city, as saying that the Kurdistan Alliance has to understand the facts entailed by the new situation in the Ninawa Governorate in light of the positive initial results of his list in the elections whereby its received 60 percent of votes.”

The leaks on Sharqiya about mostly Sunni Arab al-Anbar Province, the enormous western governorate, suggested that

‘ -“Unofficial preliminary results in the Al-Anbar Governorate, western Iraq, indicate that the Iraq Awakening Alliance and the National Independents came in first place in the elections there followed by the Iraqi National Project, and thirdly the Iraqi List. Sources in Al-Anbar confirmed that the Iraqi List came in first place in the Al-Fallujah city followed by the Alliance of the Intellectuals and the Tribes for Development List which is backed by the Iraqi Islamic Party.’

If this estimate is correct, there has been a major upset. Al-Anbar had been ruled by the Iraqi Islamic Party of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. This report says that they have been tossed out and that people voted instead for the Awakening Council members who ran as a party. That was the group that took American salaries to fight the radical Muslim vigilantes that the US press tends to call ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq.’

With regard to Shiite areas, the big contest is between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (running as the Shahid al-Mihrab Coalition) and the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa, running as the Coalition for a Government of Laws). Most analysts suggest a big win for PM Nuri al-Maliki’s Da’wa, but there were a few contrary reports. OSC says that Furat t.v. reported in its 10 pm broadcast on Sunday:

‘ “Unofficial results following preliminary counting of ballots in Babil showed that the Shahid al-Mihrab and the Independent Forces List is taking the lead. A source at the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Babil said the preliminary counting of ballots indicated that the Shahid al-Mihrab and the Independent Forces List is taking the lead in the governorate. The source added that almost 90 percent of ballots were counted, thus showing that the Shahid al-Mihrab and the Independent Forces List is leading, followed by the State of Law Coalition.” ‘

ISCI, or the Shahid al-Mihrab (Martyr of the Prayer Niche) had controlled the 9 southern Shiite provinces as of the Jan. 2005 provincial elections. It may or may not end up winning in Babil, as this report suggests, but from all accounts its ascendancy in the south is under severe challenge.

Other sources said that al-Maliki’s Coalition for a Government of Laws, with Da’wa at its core, was sweeping all 9 provinces of the south, with ISCI and other parties coming in second or third. Most provincial councils have between 25 and 41 seats, and Da’wa and its allies might end up needing further coalition parties after the councils are elected. Da’wa officials say that they will actively seek such coalitions.

Another leak says that Maliki’s Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) and its allies won 50% of the seats on the provincial council of Basra, an oil rich province that also contains Iraq’s only ports. The Islamic Supreme Council is said to have won 20% of seats in Basra (it had won 20 of 41 in 2005).

Da’wa is also said to have won Baghdad, which is now a heavily Shiite city in the wake of the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni Arabs there during the civil war of 2006-2007. Al-Maliki’s party even did well in the slums of East Baghdad or Sadr City, according to this report; these had earlier been strongholds of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Al-Maliki attacked the Mahdi Army in both Basra and Sadr City late last spring, and won.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq for Sunday:

‘ Baghdad

A sticky bomb targeted the car of Mohammed Salama, the head of Sahwa in Ogla village, around 40 km to the southeast of Baghdad at 11 a.m. Sunday injuring Salama and a civilian passer by.

Kirkuk

A roadside bomb targeted a civilian car in Gharnata neighbourhood in the centre of Kirkuk City late Saturday, damaging the car without causing human casualties.

A roadside bomb targeted a large truck on the main route between Kirkuk and Tikrit, near Zghaitun Bridge at 10 p.m. Saturday injuring the driver and damaging the truck.

Nineveh

Gunmen blew up a farm house belonging to candidate of al Hadbaa List, Faisal al Habbu which is located in al Qunaitra area, 20 km to the south of Mosul. The house, which was only visited by the family every so often, was destroyed and no casualties were reported.’

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