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Diyala Sees Early Campaigning

Muhammed Abdullah
Diyala’s citizens hold high hopes for the forthcoming elections, believing that they will bring about much needed change in the province. Diyala, 55 kilometers north east of Baghdad, is still one of the most…
8.12.2008  |  Diyala

However, political observers fear that the competition between different parties may lead to a further deterioration of security conditions especially as some armed groups, descendants of al-Qaeda, are participating “in support of Sunnis”.

Forty-five political entities and coalitions and one separate list will participate in the elections. Four of these coalitions are considered key players, leaving others with little chance of victory.

The major forces are the ‘Diyala Coalition’, affiliated with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), which currently occupies 20 out of the 41 council seats as well as the province’s governorship; the ‘Rule of Law’ coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which was previously allied with the SIIC; the ‘Kurdistan Alliance’ led by the two main Kurdish parties which currently hold seven provincial seats including the post of the head of the council; and the ‘Accordance and Reform Front’ led by the Iraqi Islamic Party which includes the ‘Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Organizations’, the ‘General Conference of the Iraqi People’, and the ‘Iraqi Arab Assembly.’ This last list currently holds 14 seats and the post of deputy-governor.

According to the law, campaigning should only have started on December 1. However, competing parties began their campaigns much earlier, issuing electoral statements promising to combat administrative corruption, defend the rights of the displaced and ensure security. With high unemployment, the provision of new jobs has also been central to early campaigning.

At the same time, the coalitions have been providing financial assistance to supporters, holding banquets for the poor and intimidating important families and tribes in a bid to gain early electoral momentum. Already, the emblems of the SIIC are plastered across the province.

The many similarities between the different publicity campaigns during these elections and previous ones have reinforced the idea that political alliances are still depending very much on sectarian and ethnic affiliations.

On the Shiite side, the two main lists are expected to compete intensely for seats, with al-Malki-backed tribal councils potentially playing a decisive role. However, the Sadrist movement is completely absent because of government-led security campaigns against it. Sadr sources say the movement will participate in the elections by joining other lists. However, observers say that it is unlikely that Sadrists can regain their former position. Similarly, the Fadhila party, which has entered the election on a separate list, has witnessed a decline in support in Diyala and is unlikely to do well in the election.

It is difficult to predict the chances of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi List, made up of the Iraqi National Accord Movement and Mithal al-Allousi’s Loyalty to Iraq Coalition. The former party has been accused of Baathist sympathies, while al-Allousi is charged with being close to Israel.

For many election observers, the participation of Sunni armed groups linked to al-Qaeda, has raised fears of violence. The Salah-Eddin al-Ayyoubi Brigades, Iraq Hamas Movement and the Muslims Army have joined the election under the National Movement for Reform and Development.

However, despite rumors that sleeper cells are planning attacks for election day, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has stressed that elections will be held on schedule. Security chiefs have sought to reassure voters, telling them that stringent security measures will be enforced to ensure the safety of the 802,000 registered voters expected at 2171 polling stations across the province.

But, a source in Diyala provincial council did reveal to Niqash that “serious efforts are being made by the different parties to postpone the electoral process in the province.”

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