Religious Parties Sweep Shiite South; Sunni Arabs fragmented, mainly Secular.

The Iraqi provincial election results are out. They confirm what I said last Monday, that the parties who want a strong, united Iraq have come to the fore in these elections. Although Nuri al-Maliki’s Da’wa Party got over a third of the votes in Baghdad and Basra, they clearly did not achieve a commanding position, and its share in the more rural Shiite provinces was signifcantly less..

The big story here is that the Shiite religious parties (and yes, the Da’wa or Islamic Mission Party is among them) again swept the Shiite south. However, those Shiite parties that won out this time want a strong central government, not a Shiite mini-state.

There is nothing here to give comfort to those Americans who fear Iranian influence in Iraq. The Islamic Mission Party or Da’wa is just as committed to warm relations with Tehran as is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The Da’wa leaders were in exile in Tehran for years just like ISCI. Da’wa is more “lay” and less clerical than ISCI, but being “lay” means non-clerical, not secular. Da’wa wants an Islamic State.

These election results raise severe questions about the viability of the Biden plan, which foresaw three decentralized super-provinces overseen by a weak central government. Most of the victors in this election are strong believers in a centralized civil bureaucracy.

On the whole, I think these results are encouraging for Obama. The Sunni Arab ex-Baathist secular elites have reentered polities in the Sunni Arab areas. These election results put paid to the fantasies of Dick Cheney and John McCain that Sunni Arab Iraqis are pro-“al-Qaeda.” Most of them would not even vote for a religious party, much less for a radical fundamentalist terrorist group. Cheney said that if the US left, al-Qaeda would take over Sunni Arab Iraq. That is highly unlikely given these election results.

Iraq voted as several distinct demographic zones.

In the two provinces with very large Shiite cities, the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki took over a third of the vote. Another 15-20% of the vote went to Shiite fundamentalist parties such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or the Sadrists. Contrary to what a lot of observers are saying, the Da’wa Party is not secular and it is not anti-Iran. It is Iraq’s oldest Shiite fundamentalist party, founded in the late 1950s, and it explicitly works for an Islamic republic. Its leaders consult with and tend to defer to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Since these parties will have to make post-election coalitions to rule, given that none gained a majority, the resulting provincial governments will resemble those formed by the United Iraqi Alliance, which grouped as allies these same Shiite religious parties. The major difference in this election in the big urban areas is that in Baghdad, the Shiite middle class gave the Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi nearly 10% of the vote, and the Sunni fundamentalists got a similar percentage. Of course, some Sunnis may have voted for Allawi’s Iraqi List. But the election returns suggest that Sunnis are no no more than ten to fifteen percent of the Baghdad population, and that Iraq’s capital is now a largely Shiite city. In Basra province, the Sunni proportion seems even smaller, tiny, even. This is odd because Zubayr near Baghdad is a largely Sunni city of 300,000. The Basra middle classes, once fairly secular, returned the big religious parties overwhelmingly.

The second zone is the medium and smaller Shiite cities of the south. There, Da’wa did not do nearly as well, receiving between ten and twenty-three percent of the vote. The other 90 to 77 percent of the seats went to other fundamentalist Shiite parties in the main. The Sadrists showed substantial strength in some provinces, garnering 14% and 15% of the vote. Although the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq suffered a massive reversal, insofar as it had dominated the provinces of the south from 2005, it still often ranged from 8% to 15% of the seats in these provincial councils. Other small Shiite parties, including former PM Ibrahim Jaafari’s National Reform Trend and the Islamic Virtue Party, both small Shiite fundamentalist parties, often got between three and eight percent of the vote.

The final zone is the four Sunni Arab provinces, which did not vote similarly to one another.

The ethnically mixed Diyala Province in the east split its vote, with about a quarter going to secular parties with a Baathist background; about a fifth going to the Sunni fundamentalist bloc; a fourth going to the Kurdistan alliance, and about 15 percent going to Shiite fundamentalist parties.

In al-Anbar, the secular and tribal parties won big, with the religious parties marginalized (15% of the vote).

In Ninevah, a big, secular, centralizing party, al-Hadba’, got nearly 50% of the seats, sweeping away the Kurdish representatives that were once prominent on this provincial council.

Salahuddin returned so many small parties that seeing a trend thare is beyond me. The over all picture of the Sunni Arabs is that contrary to the last administration in Washington, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq are mostly secular nationalists and are uninterested for the most part in fundamentalists or “al-Qaeda.”

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iraqi High Electoral Commission announced 90 percent of the results in the provincial elections held Jan. 31. More results are given in Arabic in this al-Hayat article. The New York Times has a fairly complete list of results in English.

Below, I list the major results, though I’m leaving out the very small parties. I will use the names of the leading parties rather than the names of their coalitions, since they aren’t really much of a coalition and typically there is a strong party core. So the Islamic Mission Party or Da’wa of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ran with others as the Coalition for a Government of Laws. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (which is especially close to Iran) ran with some other closely allied small parties as the Martyr of the Prayer Niche Alliance. And the Sadrists, followers of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, ran as “The Free Independent Movement.” But I’ll just call them Sadrists. Likewise, among Sunnis the National Dialogue Front of Salih Mutalk (secular, Sunni, ex-Baathist) ran in a coalition called “the Iraqi National Plan.” Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List kept its name. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Ja’fari ran a party called the National Reform Trend.

LARGE SHIITE PROVINCES:

Baghdad: Da’wa won 38%; the Sadrists won 9%; the (Sunni) Iraqi Accord Front won 9%; The Iraqi List won 8.6%; the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) won 5.4%; The National Reform Trend won 4.3%

Basra: Da’wa won 37%; ISCI won 11.6% the Gathering of Justice and Unity won 5.5%; the Sadrists won 5%; the Iraqi Accord Front won 3.8%; the Islamic Virtue Party won 3.2%; the Iraqi List won 3.2%; the (Shiite fundamentalist) National Reform Trend won 2.5%

SMALLER SHIITE PROVINCES

Dhi Qar: Da’wa won 23.1%; Sadrists won 14.1%; ISCI won 11.1%; National Reform Trend won 7.6%; Islamic Virtue Party won 6.1%

Qadisiya: Da’wa won 23.1 %; ISCI won 11.7%; the National Reform Trend won 8.2%; the Iraqi List won 8%; the Sadrists won 6.7%; Islamic Loyalty won 4.3%; the Islamic Virtue Party won 4.1%

Maysan: Da’wa won 17.7%; Sadrists won 15.2%; ISCI won 14.6%; National Reform Trend won 8.7%; Islamic Virtue Party won 3.2%

Najaf: Da’wa won 16.2%; ISCI won 14.8%; Sadrists won 12.2%; Loyalty to Najaf won 8.3%; the National Reform Trend won 7%

Wasit: Da’wa won 15.3%; ISCI won 10%; Sadrists won 6%; Iraqi List won 4.6%; Constitutional won 3.9%; National Reform Trend won 3.2%

Babil: Da’wa won 12.5%; ISCI won 8.2%; Sadrists won 6.2%; the National Reform Trend won 4.4%

Muthanna: Da’wa won 10.9%; ISCI won 9.3%; Republicans won 7.1%; National Reform Trend won 6.3%; Sadrists won 5.1%; the National List won 5%; the Gathering of Muthanna won 4.9%;
Academics won 4.4%; the Middle Euphrates won 3.9%; the Islamic Virtue Party won 3.7%; the Iraqi List won 3.5%

Karbala: Yusuf Majid al-Hububi won 13.3%; the Hope of Mesopotamia won 8.9%; Da’wa won 8.5%; the Sadrists won 6.8%; ISCI won 6.4%; Justice and Reform won 3.6%; the
National Reform Trend won 2.5%; the Islamic Virtue Party won 2.5%

SUNNI PROVINCES

Salahuddin: Iraqi Accord Front won 14.5%; the Iraqi List won 13.9%; the Iraqi National Plan won 8%; the Kurdistan Alliance won 4% (plus many, many small parties)

Diyala: Iraqi Accord Front won 21.1%; the Kurdistan Alliance won 17.2%; and the Iraqi National Plan won 15%; The Iraqi List won 9.5%; Da’wa won 6%; the Coalition of Diyala won 5.3%; the National Reform Trend won 4.3%; the Sadrists won 3.1%; the National Movement won 2.6%; the Islamic Virtue Party won 2.3%

Ninevah: al-Hadba’ won 48.4%; the Kurdistan Alliance won 25.5%; the Iraqi Accord Front won 6%; the Iraqi Islamic Party won 6.7%; the Turkmen Front won 2.8%; the National Iraqi Plan won 2.6%; ISCI won 1.9%

al-Anbar: the Iraqi National Plan won 17.5% ; the Awakening of Iraq won 17.1%; Iraqi Accord Front won 15.9%; the National Movement for Reform and Development won 7.8%; the Iraqi List won 6.6% (plus small parties)

End/ (Not Continued)