Recap on Iraq’s Election
June 26, 2018
Recap on Iraq’s Election
In May 2018, Iraq held its parliamentary elections to elect the 329 members of the Council of Representatives, which is tasked with electing the Iraqi President and Prime Minister. With a turnout rate of only 44.52%, which is the lowest participation rate of all the post-2003 élections, a total of 204 parties registered in the elections. Out of these 204 parties, 143 ran under 27 alliances (coalitions) whereas parties not joining any electoral coalition were allowed to run for the polls individually. However, unlike the elections held in 2014 and 2010, which had been characterized by large coalitions comprised of a different variety of political groups, the 2018 elections witnessed intra-sectarian divisions and fragmented Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish factions.
Another noteworthy aspect of these elections relates to the most dominant political force in Iraq, i.e., the Shia parties. Whereas they ran as a single group under the United Iraqi Alliance in 2005, during 2018’s elections, they were divided into five coalitions, which is a testimony to the growing divergences amongst the Shia parties. The Al-Sairoon (Marchers) coalition, which is a eye-catching alliance formed between the religious leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi communist Party, and other secular candidates, secured the highest number of seats of all the coalitions with 54 seats. Sadr de-emphasized his Shia credentials and assumed a more nationalist and inclusive discourse during these elections in a bid to oppose both the Iranian and the American influence on Iraq. The Conquest Alliance, also known as the Al-Fatih bloc, which includes the Shia militias from the Popular Mobilization Unites (PMUs) represented by Hadi Al-Ameri, came second with 47 seats. The Al-Fatih bloc is known for being close to Iran. The Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi entered the elections at the head of the Nasr al-Iraq (Victory of Iraq) coalition obtaining 42 seats, ranking third. The Dawlat al-Qanun coalition, also known as the State of Law, represented by Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former prime minister, came fourth with 25 seats. Finally, Hikma (Wisdom) coalition under the aegis of Ammar al-Hakim came fifth with 19 seats. Other Shia parties won 7 seats. While the Shia parties slightly lower than 60% of the seats in Iraq, the rest were divided amongst the Sunnis, seculars, the Kurds, and the minorities.
The task of forming the new government
At least 165 seats are needed to be able to form a government. Sadr’s Al-Sairoon coalition, as the winner of the greatest number of seats, has the formidable task of forming an alliance with other parties. Yet, Sadr, has a difficult task at hand. His best bet for the formation of the new government remains an alliance between Haidar al-Abadi and Hadi al-Amiri as well as inviting more coalitions.
Sadr had announced at the beginning of June the possibility of an alliance with Hadi Al-Amiri. Yet, given that Al-Amiri has close ties with Iran whereas Sadr deprecates the Iranian influence in the country, the workability of this alliance remains to be seen. On June 23rd, Sadr also announced that the talks between him and Haidar Al-Abadi have been fruitful towards the formation of a new government. So, there is a likelihood that the new government might subsume the three major Shia coalitions (Al-Sairoon, Al Fatih, and Nasr-al Iraq) while also needing the participation of more groups in order to have the required number of seats. After his meeting with Al-Abadi, Sadr reiterated his commitment to a “cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic alliance to speed up forming the next government and to agree on common points that guarantee the interests of the Iraqi people” While the top three winning coalitions (all Shia) have upwards of 140 seats, more seats are needed to form the government. Traditionally, the ruling bloc in parliament tends to be larger so as to include Sunni Arab and Kurdish lawmakers.
These elections have been especially problematic so far not only due to a very low turnout, but also because of large-scale allegations of fraud as there were claims that the electronic voting system had been hacked. Against this background, a manual recount was agreed upon on June 6th; however, on June 10th, a warehouse in Baghdad containing a million ballots caught fire. Although firefighters claim to have saved millions of them, the equipment for counting them was destroyed as well.
Vahid Yucesoy for iStrategic