Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, leading a Sunni coalition, will come in second, the Shia Iraqi National Coalition (INA) will take third place, and the Kurdish alliance will finish last among the major blocs.
The surveys were funded by several US organizations, and later coupled with Iraqi polls. Experts shared these findings with NOW on condition of anonymity.
According to the Iraqi constitution, the leader of the biggest bloc will be asked to form the cabinet, a coalition of at least 163 out of parliament’s 325 seats.
So far, numbers show Maliki in the lead with close to 80 seats. The incumbent prime minister’s strategy has been focused on Baghdad and Basra, the first and third biggest of Iraq’s 18 governorates, which have a total of 68 and 24 seats respectively. Maliki also looks strong in the southern Shia governorates of Babel (16 seats), Najaf (12 seats) and Diwaniyah (11 seats).
In Baghdad, where 25% of Iraq’s 30 million people live, the Maliki coalition – the State of Law – has been focused on the predominantly Shia districts of Karkh, Kazimiyyah and Sadr City, a shantytown that is home to 1.5 million.
The Maliki campaign relies heavily on a network of loyal governors elected in January 2009 who owe their jobs to the prime minister. They include Salah Abdul-Razzaq in Baghdad, Shaltagh Shrad in Basra, Adnan Zurfi in Najaf and Salem Alwan in Diwaniyah. They are expected to deliver the State of Law Coalition a total of 60 seats.
In the remaining five southern Iraqi governorates with Shia majorities –Dhi Qar (18 seats), Wasit (11 seats), Karbala (10 seats), Maysan (10 seats) and Muthanna (7 seats) – the Maliki coalition is expected to finish second to the INA and collect a total of 15 seats.
In the predominantly Sunni district of Diyala, Maliki is expected to only pick up one or two of the 13 seats.
Of the seven compensation seats allocated to diaspora votes and the eight seats reserved for minorities – namely Christians Ezidis, Shabak and Sabeans – Maliki is expected to collect up to five.
So far the polls show the Iran-leaning INA collecting around 60 seats overall with Allawi and his coalition – comprised of the two main Sunni groups under Vice President Tarek Hashimi and lawmaker Saleh Motlaq – looking to take all or most of the seats in the two Sunni governorates of Anbar (14 seats) and Salahiddine (12 seats).
Polls show Allawi’s Iraqi Ticket Coalition leading in the second biggest of Iraq’s governorates, Nineveh, with its 31 seats, and Dyala, with its 13 seats. Though not purely Sunni, a fierce battle is expected in these two electoral districts between Allawi’s Sunni coalition, and the alliance of the two main Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, respectively.
So far polls show the Allawi coalition will collect 25 seats from these two governorates, double the number of seats expected to go to the Kurdish coalition.
Allawi’s tally is expected to reach 70 seats. The Kurds, not as solid as before the emergence of an opposition front under Kurdistan’s Regional parliament member Nashirwan Mustafa and his 25-seat bloc, are still expected to dominate Iraq’s four Kurdish governorates of Assulaymaniyah, Arbil, Kirkuk and Dhuk with 17, 14, 12 and 10 seats respectively. The Kurds will win between 50 and 60 seats in parliament. And even though they will be the smallest of the four major blocs, they will still play kingmaker.
Polls also show that, other than the four main blocs, several other smaller blocs are expected to emerge, complicating the formation of a 163-seat coalition (it is generally easier to negotiate with the three major blocs than put together an alliance of parties with two or three seats each), which is expected to take up to a few months after the elections to form.
The month in the run up to the elections is a long time, and most pollsters and pundits expect fluctuations and some surprises on election day.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
With an abysmal performance record, and with misinformed suggestions, the BBG’s effort to revamp Alhurra might follow in the footsteps of previous failed reform attempts, when a director is fired or a producer is blamed. After years of incompetence, Alhurra needs a complete overhaul that must include structural and personnel changes.
The talent, journalism experience and bilingual skills of the station’s leaders and staff should be tested. The incompetent should be replaced. The grid should be revisited, and Alhurra’s offices should be brought from a Springfield suburb to downtown DC, closer to the news and to offices of its competitors such as Al Jazeera, the BBC and Al Arabiya.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Less than 25 years ago, Iraqi Kurds suffered one of the Middle East’s worst genocides of modern history. In 1986, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein ordered Operation Al Anfal, killing close to 150,000 Kurds over the course of three years. That number exceeds all the deaths resulting from more than 60 years of conflict between the Arabs and Israel, which has seen at least half a dozen wars.
One chapter was closed when Chemical Ali was executed less than a week ago. But like the Middle East’s Arabs, Iraq’s Kurds were not only the victims of external factors. Starting in 1994, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) under Massoud Barzani, embarked on a bloody war that lasted until 1998.
In the aftermath, Iraqi Kurdistan has emerged from civil war to become one of the Middle East’s most promising regions. One can only hope that the way Iraqi Kurds did it might inspire the Arabs.
But by 1991, the Kurds acted less dogmatically and more realistically as they let bygones be bygones as America stepped in to protect them from Saddam’s brutality and help them to set up an autonomous Kurdistan. The alliance between America and Iraqi Kurds has served the interests of both.
The Kurds understood that the international status quo would force them to reconnect with Baghdad. Thus, they moved to their second best option: they rejoined Iraq but made sure it would be a federal union that would give their northern region enough cultural, economic and political independence.
Meanwhile, the Kurd’s quest for an independent state has all but vanished. This means that Kurds would not be blowing themselves up, and that their leaders would not be insisting on independence in a populist manner like several Arab and Iranian leaders often do regarding Palestine.
The Kurdistan state-building experiment in northern Iraq, even if only within the limits of autonomy, is far from perfection. Yet it is one of the most impressive in the Middle East. It should certainly serve as a model for several Arab countries to emulate.