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small win, big success
iraq’s civil democratic alliance celebrates four new MPs

Ibrahim Saleh
The coalition of civil society-minded, secular parties competing together as the Civil Democratic Alliance only won four seats in Iraq’s general elections. Nonetheless their supporters and their newly-minted…
22.05.2014  |  Baghdad

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As the unofficial results of Iraq’s general election, held in April, were announced this month, it seemed as though the newly formed Civil Democratic Alliance had finally made some headway. Some unofficial counts were saying they had won ten seats in the Iraqi Parliament.

The Alliance, made up of around 10 liberal and secular parties, including Iraq’s Communist party, wanted to “be an alternative to the communal politics defining Wednesday’s national vote,” news agency Reuters reported, and was “aimed at people who feel so marginalised by Iraq\'s politics that they are hardly counted”.

Additionally by banding together the parties would be able to capitalize on all the votes they received individually. This had been a problem before. In the 2010 elections, competing as individuals, some of the politicians from the Civil Democratic Alliance’s parties actually won more votes than some of the MPs who eventually got seats in Parliament; this was due to the then-system of counting votes which saw larger parties given smaller parties’ votes, if those smaller parties’ votes didn’t reach a certain threshold.

When they competed in Iraq’s provincial elections in 2013, the same Civil Democratic Alliance parties won seven seats around the country, working as allies.

However when the official results finally came in, it turned out the Civil Democratic Alliance didn’t get the ten seats others had predicted, or even the seven seats they themselves were thinking they would get: In the final count, they got four seats.

They won three in Baghdad and one in the southern province of Basra, where they competed under another name.

“Opinion polls we conducted indicated that the Civil Democratic Alliance should win about seven seats,” Ali Mohammed Ahmed from the Etijahat Institute, an institute that tracks electoral trends in the country, said. “The difference between our predictions and the actual results are due to the way that votes are calculated.”

“The voters we polled showed that those who voted for the Civil Democratic Alliance wanted to live in a civil society, enjoying democracy and freedom,” he continued. “They all said they were not convinced about a state ruled by religious forces.”

Despite only winning four seats, the Civil Democratic Alliance does not seem to be disappointed.

“Regardless of how many seats we hold, simply the presence of the Alliance will make a difference – because we will do things differently and set new precedents,” one of the Alliance’s seat-winning new MPs, Shorouq al-Abeji, said. “The public has shown it is in the mood for forces representing a civil society. The political scene had lacked these previously.”

“And we must not forget that the Civil Democratic Alliance actually got a lot more votes nationwide then the four seats represent,” says local political analyst, Haider al-Ghrawi. “They got votes that didn’t count in some regions because they didn’t reach a certain threshold. The other reason that the Civil Democratic Alliance didn’t do as well previously is due to the maturity and sophistication of the voting public. This is changing.”

Supporters feel optimistic that at last the Iraqi Parliament will feature secular, civil society-minded voices - and they hope those voices will only become louder in time.