Sunni Party to Boycott Iraq Elections

The LAT reports that the National Dialogue Front, a secular party led by Salih Mutlak, is calling for a boycott of the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq. The NDF has 11 seats in parliament, but Mutlak and another prominent party member were among over 500 candidates (out of over 6000) for parliament disqualified as too close to the prohibited Baath Party. Many of those excluded from running had openly criticized the provision in the Iraqi constitution that bans members of the Baath Party from public life. The purge of Mutlak has been widely condemned in Iraq as unfair, since he left the party in the late 1970s.

Mutlak announced that the boycott decision was taken after remarks by American leaders in Iraq that the banning of candidates had been instigated by Iran. Mutlak said that the upcoming polls in Iraq had been hijacked by Iran and were being conducted according to the Iranian rules, wherein the regime predetermines who wins and some candidates are excluded from running.

Some observers worry that there will be a mass Sunni boycott of the elections, as happened with disastrous effects in January of 2005. I don’t think that catastrophe can now be repeated, because at that time the elections were held on a nation-wide basis. The current elections instead have Iraqi provinces as the electoral unit. Thus, the largely Sunni provinces of al-Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah will return a lot of Sunni members of parliament even with a boycott (the resulting members of parliament just would not represent that many people).

Liz Sly of the LAT says that there are two main Shiite blocs for the first time in this election (the first two parliamentary elections saw the Shiite religious parties unite into a single coalition). But she says that the two ” have an informal agreement” to come together as a mega-coalition after the elections, which will enable them to form the government. (In the Iraqi constitution, the largest single party or coalition in parliament gets first shot at choosing the prime minister.)

I have argued that the Shiite-dominated Accountability and Justice Committee may have banned Mutlak precisely in hopes that his National Dialogue Front would boycott, thus depriving the Iraqiya list of enough seats to make a bid to form the government.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the National Dialogue Front gave as further reasons for its boycott that it was also concerned about the lack of security for elections, by the government’s arbitrary arrest of its candidates and party workers, and by the lack of a truly independent high electoral commission.

In contrast, the National Iraqi List, headed by former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi– which the National Dialogue Front had joined in a coalition effort– announced that it would begin campaigning in earnest after last week’s one-week hiatus. Allawi kicked off the campaign with a visit to the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, for consultations with King Abdullah. Saudi Arabia has backed Iraqi Sunnis behind the scenes, and is worried about Iranian influence in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the main Shiite bloc, the National Iraqi Alliance (which includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, formed in 1982 in Iran), accused the United States of interfering in Iraqi domestic politics and of plotting to bring the Baath Party back into prominence as the “neo-Baath.”

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6 Responses

  1. Yes, but what you leave out in this quote: "The current elections instead have Iraqi provinces as the electoral unit. Thus, the largely Sunni provinces of al-Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah will return a lot of Sunni members of parliament even with a boycott." Is that the boycott will hurt Sunni residents of Diyala, Baghdad, and other mixed provinces that do have electoral competition for voting along confessional lines. Especially in Diyala, this could be a big issue.

  2. What you neglect to mention is that in mixed provinces like Diyala, any boycott could hurt Sunni representation in the final outcome. We already saw this with the shia party controlled provincial council there that was in control until 2009, despite it being a sunni majority province.

  3. ack, sorry for the double post, thought the program ate it the first time. didn't realize comments were moderated. Please feel free to pick the better of my two initial comments.

  4. Elections in Iraq are hotting up. Unfortunately, only Maliki's State of Law coalition seems to have gone past the rhetoric and produced a fairly detailed manifesto – suprisingly in both Arabic and English (see for further details).

    Not even parties like Allawi's or the Kurds seem to have produced anything substantial, which is worring.

  5. Influence of Iran needs to be curbed or there will be a civil war in Iraq in the next decade.

  6. It is well-known, in the West at least, that Saudi Arabia is ruled by a dictatorshp, and that Abdullah is the dictator.
    It is also well-known that he and his cruel tyrannical regime and their Wahabbi allies have so much blood on their hands and have a human rights record probably worse than that of the regime in Tehran. Also, unlike the regime in Iran, that of Saudi Arabia does not even allow elections in Saudi Arabia. So why should it care about election in Iraq or another country? I therefore believe that it was a huge mistake and probably a very dangerous move by Allawi- to speak about elections that are at least in theory supposed to be democratic- with one of the world's most brutal dictators.

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