Provincial Elections in Iraq

It is still early, but the preliminary results from Iraq’s provincial elections bode well for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq Election Results Point to a Big Win for Maliki begins

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

Mr. Maliki’s Dawa party is predicted to emerge at the top of the poll in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq’s two largest cities, as well as in most of the overwhelmingly Shia south of Iraq. The largest Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), hitherto one of the main powerbrokers in the country, suffered heavy losses in all the provinces where it has been in charge for the past four years. “According to initial information, Maliki’s list has come first in Basra with 50 per cent of the vote. Ours took 20 per cent,” said Furat al-Sheraa, the head of ISCI in Basra.

The outcome of the election, which will probably be repeated in the parliamentary elections in December, marks a sea-change in Iraqi politics, with both the Shia and Sunni communities punishing the religious parties which flourished after the U.S. occupation in 2003. The results are a clear endorsement of Mr Maliki who has managed to displace the militia of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, negotiated the withdrawal of 142,000 U.S. troops during the next three years and confronted the Kurds By stressing his nationalist credentials and success in improving security, Mr. Maliki has gained the allegiance of the majority Shia community.

The Election: Preliminary Results from the New York Time Baghdad Bureau states

The preliminary count shows Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition getting the biggest vote in nine out of the 14 provinces contested, but nowhere does he manage an absolute majority. His highest tally is 38% in Baghdad, but in other areas he is on 11% to 20%, which means he will be dependent on other coalition partners, or could even be squeezed out by others forming alliances against him.

It is unclear exactly how many seats each of the leading parties will win – with between 26 and 57 up for grabs in each province, depending on its size. The full results will take more than three weeks, because of complex voting rules on how to allocate seats. Anbar could prove problematic, with some parties alleging voting irregularities.

and later, the article refers to

…Mr. Maliki’s current high personal standing as a leader with a good security record.

That’s refreshing. And it must be equally refreshing to Iraqis to actually have more than one name on a ballot. I wonder who Muntadhar al-Zaida voted for? Maybe he has put down the Ramazan Baydan Model 271 Brogues long enough to reflect on the significance.

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