Sadrist Straw Poll selects Ibrahim Jaafari as candidate for Prime Minister

The straw poll conducted by the Sadr Movement, led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, produced the following results:

Ibrahim Jaafari, (National Reform Trend): 24%
Jaafar al-Sadr (State of Law), 23%
Qusay al-Suhail (Sadr Movement) 17%
Nuri al-Maliki (State of Law/ Da’wa): 10%
Iyad Allawi (Iraqi National Movement): 9%
Baha’ al-A’raji (Sadr Movement): 5%
Ahmad Chalabi (Iraqi National Alliance): 3%
Adil Abdul Mahdi (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq), 2%
Rafi al-Isawi (Iraqi Islamic Party [Sunni]): 2%

Although there is not really a clear winner, the Sadrists seem to be coalescing around Jaafari.

Jaafari leads a splinter of the Islamic Mission Party or Da’wa, and served as elected prime minister from spring 2005 through spring 2006. He was widely seen as ineffectual, and managed to anger all the major political players, especially the Kurds. He was accused of seeking Turkish help to forestall the absorption by the Kurdistan Regional Government of the oil province of Kirkuk.

The Sadrists only got 39 seats in the parliamentary election of March 7, in a parliament of 325. They are far too small to impose Jaafari on the other parties, many of which have a critique of him. In order to form a government, several parties will have to join together to get 163 seats. Moreover, al-Hayat quotes other members of the Iraqi National Alliance of Shiite fundamentalist parties as saying that they do not consider the referendum relevant to their choice for prime minister. Thus, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by young cleric Ammar al-Hakim, will not back Jaafari.

The two largest blocs garnered 91 and 89 seats in parliament respectively. Were the Iraqi National Alliance, which groups Shiite fundamentalist parties, including that of Sadr, to swing behind either of the frontrunners, it could put them in striking distance of forming a government. But the Sadrists deeply dislike incumbent PM Nuri al-Maliki of the Islamic Mission Party, and they likely aren’t wild about Iyad Allawi, a strong secularist, either.)

The main effect of the straw poll and the announced result is to make it harder for the Sadrists to rush into a coalition. The move also gives them a bargaining chip in negotiating with the parties of Iyad Allawi and Nuri al-Maliki. For instance the Sadrists may be attracted to the State of Law list as a partner, but not want prime minister al-Maliki to lead the resulting coalition. They could now offer to give up Jaafari if their prospective partner would likewise give up its favored leader, so that a less well-known compromise candidate might emerge.

The negotiations over forming a new government probably just got lengthened, and they could well go into August.

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2 Responses

  1. We had the same shenanigans in 2006 during the negotations to select the Iraqi PM.

    As you said in the earlier post, it is a farce the second time over.

  2. .
    Yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that Sayyid al-Sadr is the true peoples' choice.
    Why would a Sunni go to an al-Sadr office and cast a vote in this preference poll ? Because she or he trusts the al-Sadr Movement to do what's best for Iraq.

    Anybody know how many people participated in this, excluding double votes and children ?
    .

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