Shiite Religious Parties Dominate 10

Shiite Religious Parties dominate 10 of 18 Provinces
Talabani calls for Government of National Unity

The Los Angeles Times reports that the secular Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi so far seems only to have 8% of the seats in the new parliament, though that tally may increase slightly when the 230,000 or so votes of expatriates are counted. (I doubt it will increase much). Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress did not get enough votes even to win a single seat, so far.

The Kurds so far have about 45 seats of the 230 being voted for, and the Sunnis have 35. The latter are split between the neo-Baathist National Dialogue Council of Salih Mutlak and the fundamentalist Sunni National Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi. These totals will probably increase when the unallocated seats are reapportioned. The Sunni Arabs are upset that they are trailing the Kurds, being convinced that they are a much larger group. But since the seats have been allocated to provinces on the basis of voting registration in Jan. 2005, that consideration is irrelevant. Besides, the Sunni Arabs vastly overestimate their own proportion of the Iraqi population; a lot of them really think they are a majority!

Al-Hayat [Ar.] reports that the National Accord Front is leading in 4 provinces (presumably Anbar, Salahuddin, and Ninevah, but what is the fourth? Diyala?). The United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) is leading in 9 southern provinces and in Baghdad. And the Kurdistan Alliance is leading in four provinces (Dohuk, Sulaimaniyah, Irbil and Kirkuk).

Al-Hayat says that Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader and current president, is calling for a government of national unity that will include Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. Al-Sharq al-Awsat is franker about Talabani’s rationale here, since he said that the Shiite-Kurdish alliance between him and prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari had not been successful. Talabani never got along with Jaafari, and was uncomfortable with being merely a ceremonial president, as is called for in the Iraqi constitution. Whatever its rationale, the national unity government is a very good idea. It does have the drawback that such a government would seldom be able actually to take a decision, since the three groups disagree with one another vehemently on most issues. On the other hand, since the government has almost no power or authority, and is mainly symbolic, it probably doesn’t matter if it can’t take many decisions. On the other hand, it is hard to see why the Shiite majority should give away all the advantages of its majority.

The LA Times estimates that the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite fundamentalist party, has 110 seats so far. To form a government, it will need 138. But its totals may increase. AP says that Husain Shahristani of the UIA (someone very close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani) is predicting that the Shiite religious coalition will end up with 130 seats, ten less than its current total. Moreover, a group of Sadrists, the Messengers, ran separately from the UIA in the south and are getting 3% of the seats. If that holds, they will have about 7 or 8 seats, and they will certainly ally with the United Iraqi Alliance, which is therefore in striking distance of forming a government. The Guardian explains the reapportionment formula for the 45 seats that were not initially in play:

‘ The other 45 are split, partly on the “best loser” principle, whereby small parties that did not win enough votes for a seat in any province have their votes totalled nationally. If this figure surpasses a certain threshold, they get a seat. After this is done, the remaining seats are split among the big winners in proportion to their national tallies. This will give the Shi’ite alliance even more. ‘

Adnan Dulaimi of the National Accord Front, a Sunni group, angrily charged extensive voting fraud in Baghdad, where Sunnis got only about 20 percent of the vote, and demanded a re-vote. Not likely. Actually, this result is plausible. Dulaimi’s list is Islamist, and the Sunni Baghadis are not mostly Islamists. A lot of secular middle class Sunnis probably voted for Allawi’s secular list, which got 14% in early returns in Baghdad. Allawi’s list would have appealed to secular ex-Baathists. Moreover, Sunni Arabs were not completely free to vote. Security is very bad in Amiriyah, Ghazaliyah, Adhamiyah and other districts of the capital, and a lot of people would have been afraid to come out. In contrast, the Shiites of East Baghdad, who are probably at least half the population, have fair security, and since the United Iraqi Alliance includes Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc as well as Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, there was something for everyone there; the vote turnout would have been high. [By the way, could journalists please stop calling it the National Accordance Front? That is not English, no matter what Dulaimi thinks.]

Allawi is the skunk at the party from the point of view of most of the other parties. The Guardian reports, ‘ “We’ve started talks with the Sunnis and Kurds. Not many of us are eager to take Allawi on board. I don’t think he stands a chance,” said Haider Abadi, spokesperson for the [Shiite fundamentalist] Dawa party of the Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. ‘

Cole: I think I pretty much nailed this election last October in this post (scroll down a bit). Note that I was often contradicted by observers on the ground in Iraq, who kept saying they perceived a groundswell for the secular party of Allawi, even in the Shiite-dominated provinces. This allegation never made any sense to me. Michael Rubin of the AEI was predicting 5 percent for Chalabi (the neocon favorite) and 20 percent for Allawi, a prediction that demonstrates that after 2 1/2 years the neocons still just can’t understand anything about contemporary Iraq.

R.J. Eskow shreds the Neocon vision of what Iraq would become to pieces. Iraq is going to be pro-Iran, and will not recognize Israel (Muqtada al-Sadr will be part of the ruling coalition!) The 38 Sadrist parliamentarians and the 50 or so Sunni ones will form a powerful bloc calling for immediate US withdrawal from Iraq.

Iranian pilgrims to the Shiite shrine cities in Iraq began coming to Iraq again on Tuesday, as the border crossings opened.

The US military is using more air power to fight Sunni Arab guerrillas in Western Iraq.

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