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election results so far
low voter turnout, more compromises needed

Daoud al-Ali
Early results of provincial elections are in. Results so far indicate that civil society groups won more seats as did Islamists and that the PM is going to need to do a lot more negotiating. And that Iraqi voters…
25.04.2013  |  Baghdad
A campaign poster emphasising tribal affiliations.
A campaign poster emphasising tribal affiliations.

The early results of Iraq’s provincial elections are in. preliminary results were distributed to various political parties’ offices on April 22 by Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission or IHEC, the body responsible for conducting the elections.

Preliminary results indicate that various, independent Iraqi lists won about 70 seats out of a total of the 378 that were available in 12 Iraqi provinces that voted. The Sadrist movement won 50 seats, the State of Law, which is headed by current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won 115 seats and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq won 80 seats.

The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, currently led by young cleric Ammar al-Hakim, did particularly well. In some provinces the party came second, only trailing al-Maliki’s ruling party, and in some cases only losing to al-Maliki by a slight margin. And it seems the ISCI’s win was at the expense of the Sadrist movement which didn’t do as well as one might have expected in a number of previously loyal provinces. All of those parties have a Shiite Muslim basis.

As for the main opposition bloc in parliament, the Iraqiya bloc which is led by the former Prime Minister Ayed Allawi and is mainly Sunni Muslim, it doesn’t seem to have done all that well as a group. Various individuals in the group – such as Osama al-Nujaifi, the speaker in federal parliament – did well but others – such as Saleh-al-Mutlaq, one of Iraq’s deputy Prime Ministers – did not.

There was also another noteworthy election result: this involved parties with a secular, civil society or liberal background, winning more seats. These kinds of parties appear to have scored at least two or three seats in each provincial council. Whether that is due to Iraqi voters’ growing enthusiasm for this kind of politics though, is another question – many political analysts say it’s mainly due to the law on representation of smaller parties changing.

So what does all this mean so far? More political compromise will be needed, say some experts.

Al-Maliki had hoped to test his strength in these provincial elections, local political analyst, Ihsan al-Shammari, a lecturer at Baghdad University, told NIQASH. “He wanted to see if he could form a government without any coalition partners. But these early results confirm that this won’t be easy. Al-Maliki has discovered that what he wanted to achieve is a difficult task.”

The country’s former vice president Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite Muslim politician, made some interesting announcements on his Facebook page in regard to this. He thought that al-Maliki would lose its top position in four states previously led the Iraqi Prime Minister’s party and that, despite some new political partnerships, this would mean the party would be forced into coalitions with other parties in almost every province.

Meanwhile Adnan al-Sarraj, who heads the Iraqi Media Development Centre, which was setup to encourage objective and accurate media in the country, isn’t quite sure about that. He believes that the true electoral mood of the country will only be seen in 2014, with the next legislative elections.

“The political debate in the provinces has been limited to state services and investment in development projects," al-Sarraj said.

“Because of the low voter turnout, it’s not possible to say that the provincial elections truly represent the mood of the electorate,” local analyst and writer Aziz Jaber argued. “So the winners in this election are not the real winners.”

What really counted in these elections was the negative attitude that most Iraqi voters had toward the elections, Jaber said. “People no longer care about what’s going on. They don’t believe that anything will really change.”

As part of its early announcement IHEC suggested that voter turnout was standing at around 50 percent. This is around the same levels as were seen in provincial elections in 2009. However various other organizations believed that it was even less than this.

The Tammuz Organization for Social Development, which was monitoring the elections, said that turnout was lower. “The figure we got from our observers around the country indicated that voter turnout was only at around 37 percent,” Ali al-Dujail, the organization’s secretary, noted.

The gap between IHEC’s figures and those provided by other organizations were certainly cause for controversy. But one thing was clear: whichever figures were correct, around half of all Iraqi voters didn’t bother to make a political choice. In the Salahaddin province, turnout was at about 61 percent but it was in Baghdad it wasn’t higher than 33 percent and according to some sources, as low as 20 percent in some neighbourhoods.

Additionally for the first time ever, polling stations were closed by 5pm. Their opening hours were not extended as they had been during other provincial elections. Officials were confident that everyone who wanted to, would have voted by then. Previously high voter turnout had meant that polling stations needed to stay open. Not this year.