01 October 2007

Iraq's 2005 Election And Its Aftermath

December 2005 Election Pluralities from Wikipedia

This is partially old news, but is still relevant. A little less than two years ago, Iraq elected its current parliament, which has 275 members (a majority is 138 seats).

The largest Shi'ite Islamist party won 128 seats. Another Shi'ite Islamist party won 2 seats.

Two Kurdist nationalist parties won a combined 58 seats.

The largest Sunni Islamist party won 44 seats.

Two moderate non-sectarian parties won a combined 36 seats.

A Baathist party won 3 seats. A Turkmen party won 1 seat. An Assyrian party (heavily Christian) won 1 seat. Two other minor parties won 1 seat each.

According to Wikipedia the Coalition formed was as follows:

Under the newly-adopted constitution of Iraq, the Presidency Council of Iraq, Prime Minister of Iraq and Cabinet must have the support of two thirds, or 184, members of the Iraqi National Assembly. The parties who formed the government were:

United Iraqi Alliance (excluding the Islamic Virtue Party) - 113
Kurdistani Alliance - 53
Iraqi Accord Front - 44
Iraqi National List - 25
The Upholders of the Message - 2
Iraqi Turkmen Front - 1
National Rafidain List - 1
Total - 240

The 29 members of Sadrist Movement within the United Iraqi Alliance withdrew from the government in November 2006, taking the total down to 211. In August 2007, the main Sunni bloc, Iraqi Accord Front withdrew from the Government.

Opposition parties in the Assembly are:

Islamic Virtue Party - 15
Iraqi National Dialogue Front - 11
Kurdistan Islamic Union - 5
Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc - 3
Mithal al-Alusi List - 1
Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progress - 1

Thus, a faction of the coalition leader, one of the secular parties, one of the Kurdish parties, the Baathist party, and two minor parties were initially in opposition. The leading Sunni party, and another faction of the coalition leader have since left the coalition, leaving the government with a solid majority, but not a two-thirds majority in parliament. The remaining core of the government is now a combination of Kurdish and Shi'ite Islamist parties.

Six months from now, a law that would allow the Southern Shi'ite areas to form their own regional government, which could encompass the entire region, is scheduled to take effect, joining Kurdistan as an autonomous region. This would leave just seven of Iraq's eighteen provinces outside an autonomous area. The parties who currently favor a smaller regional governments than allowed by the new law are currently in opposition.

If this happens in the spring of 2008, it could take up to three months to put a referrendum to the voters, and another year to get a constitution passed within the region. But, as this appears to require only a majority of the voters in the proposed autonomous region, it seems likely to happen, if national political tides don't change to prevent the measure from going to a vote. The withdrawal of British troops from Basra, in favor of the Iraqi Army, also seems to help clear the way for autonomy for this region.

Also in the spring of 2008, a referendum on the extent of the Kurdistan region's borders, most crucially, including oil rich Kirkut, is scheduled to take place. This was orginally scheduled for November 15, 2007.

Iraqis in Shi'ite areas and the capital seem to be fleeing the country or fleeing to Sunni areas, effectively muting any opposition to a regional government. Thus, the region divisions that appeared in the December 2005 election are likely to be even more intense now, and to have shifted, overall towards Shi'ite factions.

Pure Speculation

The prospect of three or four predominantly Sunni provinces forming a regional government, particularly if Kurdish dissent is stripped out as annexations are made to a Kuridsh autonomous region, while not in play yet, would be a logical reaction to the other two autonomous regions. This would leave the capital, and perhaps one province, as neutral ground.

The Kurds don't want Baghhdad, and the Sunnis are ill equipped to hold it. So, if after a period of federalized government, the nation were to split, one would imagine that Baghdad would join the Southeastern Shi'ite region.

The Sunni area of Iraq and the Shi'ite area do need each other. The Shi'ites need the water on the rivers they are downstream on, while the Sunnis would like to have oil revenue. The Kurds, if they get a healthy share of the Northern oil fields, need neither. This could be accomplished with either a weak central government, or by treaty.

But, a divided Iraq would leave international refugees in the lurch. Anbar, for example, probably can't support returning Sunni refugees, and few would want to return to a Shi'ite autonomous region. The United States isn't likely to welcome them with open arms as refugees either.

The reality appears to be that the Congress doesn't have the guts to force U.S. troops out of Iraq, despite popular opinion to the contrary, and President Bush clearly will not do so willingly.

This means that a key deadline in the process is January 2009, when a new President takes office in the United States. I suspect that the Kurds and Shi'ites will be pushing hard to consolidate regional autonomy arrangements by then. The regional governments will also require only majority votes, rather than two-thirds majority votes to form a government, making them, which are more homogeneous to start with, easier to govern. The Sunnis are late to the game, but may try to get some sort of autonomous region in place for themselves as well by then. Before the next President leaves office, I suspect that most U.S. troops will have come home, with a withdrawal probably starting in the first two years.

A Republican who tries to argue a pro-war course is likely to get clobbered in the 2008 election, something that bodes well for Democrats.

A Sunni region and a Shi'ite region would both have natural regional allies, the former in Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, as well as Saudi Arabia, the later in Iran. The Kurds, of course, are dreaded by their neighbors in Iran and Turkey, and not loved by the Syrians, all of which have restive Kurdish minorities who year to have greater autonomy. But, the Kurds have had the benefit of not having to fight a civil war for the past four years.

Precedents from places like Kosovo may also encourage national division, with or without full autonomy.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Juan Cole notes:

"The US embassy in Baghad on Sunday condemned the US Senate resolution calling for a soft partition of Iraq.

One mystery about all the denunciations of the Senate vote is that the resolution the senators passed is just the plan of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a central member of the (Shiite) United Iraqi Alliance, which rules Iraq. Al-Hakim pushed through parliament (by a simple majority with barely a quorum) his plan for an 8-province Shiite confederacy last October. The only concession he had to give was to wait 18 months, (i.e. until next March) to proceed. Of course, the al-Hakim plan differs from that of Biden in not forcing the Sunni Arabs to form a regional government of their own. (The Sunni Arabs don't like the idea of provincial confederacies, preferring strong central government rule a la France.)

The resemblance between the al-Hakim plan and that of Joe Biden is an embarrassment to ISCI, since the US is not popular in Iraq. Radio Sawa reports in Arabic that Ammar al-Hakim (the son and currently plenipotentiary of Abdul Aziz, who is in Iran for cancer treatment) denied the similarity and expressed amazement that the US Senate should try to legislate on such a matter. His denials do not strike me as convincing-- and they lack any specifics."