Secular Majority in Iraq? Unlikely
Stephen Farrell argues at the London Times online that opinion polling suggest that “secularists” will get about 60% of the vote in the upcoming Iraqi elections and the “religious parties” will get 40%.
This statement is incorrect. Opinion polling consistently shows that 70% of Iraqis support a religious state (IRI Sept. 2004), and even larger numbers think that clerics should have a central role in politics and constitution-making (Gallup, April 2004). Moreover, Iraqis are not going to have a choice of secular or religious parties, since they are voting on a list system and the lists are mixed. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, e.g., is running on the same list with Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. But the upshot is that the INC will be swamped by the religious parties and by pro-Sistani notables.
Iyad Allawi has announced his own list, but I personally doubt it will do very well. His favorability numbers had fallen to only 47% in September, down from the 60s when he first came in, and my guess is that his standing has continued to fall because he has not done what he said he would do– bring security. Farrell may have been depending on the July numbers, but the International Republican Institute poll of September 2004 showed a substantial fall in popularity for Allawi.
Abbas Kadhim suggests a solution for the problem of the likely under-representation of the Sunnis in parliament. He says that delegations should be sent by each province rather than having nation-wide lists.
I think the national list system was introduced in Iraq to avoid the problem that province- or district-based elections might throw up localized extremists. I think we all know who would get elected from al-Anbar Province and from Amara (neo-Baathists and Sadrists, respectively).
Anyway, it seems to me that the terms of the election are by now set pretty much in stone, and while they are likely to produce a good deal of trouble, it does seem likely they will be held on the bases thus far advertized.