Guerrillas Kill 29, Incl. 3 Marines
Sistani List Looks set to Win Big
Late in the Iraqi election season, interim Prime Minister Allawi and his supporters clearly attempted to build a buzz that his list would do better than expected and that he still had a shot at remaining prime minister. I personally thought this scenario extremely unlikely. Allawi’s approval rating had steadily declined from the time he was appointed. Some thought that Sunni Arabs might vote for him in some numbers. Maybe in Baghdad a few did. But I always thought that idea a weak reed. First, few Sunni Arabs voted. Second, Allawi kept calling for more US airstrikes against Fallujah. Why would that endear him to Sunni Arabs?
John Burns and Dexter Filkin of the NYT report that initial voting returns now leaking out from Baghdad and some southern, Shiite provinces, suggest that the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shiite religious parties blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is getting 72 percent of the vote. It won’t get that on a nation-wide basis, since it won’t have done well in the areas north and west of the capital. But it certainly will form the next government. Allawi’s list is likely to end up with less than 40 seats in the 275-seat parliament.
Even so, the UIA will need a coalition partner, since it needs a 2/3s majority in parliament to form a government. One intriguing possibility, mentioned by Burns and Filkin, is that the Shiites will go into coalition with the Kurds, who think they may get over 20% of the seats in parliament. Such a government would be stable if the coalitions held together, since these two big blocs could certainly deliver more than 66% of the votes in parliament. But the two are ideologically poles apart.
In my view, this outcome would have many advantages. The Kurds are largely Sunnis, so they can represent some of the interests of the Sunni Arabs (religious issues versus ethnic ones.) The Shiites in the Dawa Party want a stong, centralized government, whereas the Kurds want a loose federalism. If they have to compromise over these issues within their ruling parliamentary coalition, that would be all to the good. The UIA will need to satisfy the Kurds in order to keep them in the coalition. The Kurds will have to satisfy the UIA as far as possible, as junior members of the coalition. If the UIA gets over fifty percent of seats, the Kurds would have little alternative to the religious Shiites as partners, since they could not form a government with the Allawi list.
For the constitutional issues Iraq will now face, see Andrew Arato’s guest editorial below.
Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune also talks about the high returns for the UIA, but seems cautious about coming to conclusions on the basis of so few provinces. She also reports that violence spiked in Iraq on Thursday, with guerrillas killing 29 in Iraq, including 3 Marines.
In one spectacular operation, guerrillas ambushed 50 Iraqi policemen in Baghdad, killing at least two and wounding 14; 16 were missing. The Sunni Arab insurgency is likely to go on for years. One salient question is whether the general Sunni populace will be so alienated by a Shiite/Kurdish government in which they are little represented that they will give even more support to the guerrillas.