70 Parties Register to Contest the Elections
Al-Hayat reports that the Iraqi Islamic Party has registered a full party list of 275 candidates. The party, led by Muhsin Abdul Hamid, has long pushed for vigorous Sunni participation in the elections. Abdul Hamid is convinced that Sunni Arabs are a majority in Iraq (they are 20% at most), which may help explain his optimism. IIP toyed with a boycott of the elections during the recent Fallujah campaign, but has decided to contest them. My sources tell me that Abdul Hamid is convinced that the Shiite parties have a secret deal to recognize Israel, and that only the Sunni Arabs can stop Iraq’s economy and society from being penetrated by Tel Aviv.
The Iraqi Turkmen Front has presented a list of 63 candidates, and even one small group of Kurdish Shiites (called Failis) has presented a complete list. Other Failis are cooperating with Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s unified Shiite list, the United Iraqi Alliance. The small Sunni Arab National Democratic Party of Nasir Chadirchi will field 12 candidates. (For a small party to go it alone in this election is probably a fatally flawed strategy, and I doubt if the NDP will get seated).
The Iraqi Communist Party, founded in 1930, has announced an independent electoral list of 257 candidates. The size of the party in its heyday of the 1950s and 1960s is disputed, with estimates ranging from 60,000 to half a million. In the 1930s and 1940s it attracted a lot of Jews, Shiites and Christians seeking a non-ethnic basis for national political identity. The CPI was, in any case, a highly significant party. The colonel’s regime of Abdul Karim Qasim allied with the Communists because the officers lacked much other grassroots political support. This alliance alarmed Washington, which is widely rumored to have therefore thrown its support to the Baath Party, a nationalist/socialist party that despised the Communists. It is said that in the first Baath coup of 1963, the US passed over to the regime the names of several hundred Communist moles, whom the Baath had tortured and killed (Saddam Hussein was working as an interrogator in this period). The 1968 Baath coup stuck, and although the Baath kept around some tame house Communists, the new one-party state led to a virtual atrophy of the CPI.
There is some possibility that Iraqi secularists from various backgrounds and communities will vote Communist to protest the inexorable movement of Iraq toward being an Islamic republic. The likelihood is, however, that the Communists will not get many seats in parliament and will not be an important voting bloc.
So far, 70 party lists have registered, 6 of them coalitions and the other 64 consisting of single parties.
Muhammad al-Bazzi of Newsday explains the mechanics of the Iraqi elections. Basically, voters will get to vote just once, for a party list. The list is in ranked order, beginning with the top candidate and descending. Let’s say the party list has 200 members, and it gets 10 percent of the national vote. That outcome will allow it to seat its top 27 members in the 275-member parliament. The other 173 members of the list (number 28 on down) will be out of luck.