Friday, January 20, 2006


The Associated Press is reporting on the results from the December 15th vote in Iraq. It appears that the Shiite UIA list has once again bested the field, but did not get the magic number needed to form a government on its own. The Shiites will need to reach out to prospective coalition partners.

The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance captured 128 of the 275 seats in the Dec. 15 election, down from the 146 it won in January 2005 balloting, said commission official Safwat Rasheed. It needed 138 to rule without partners.

A Sunni ticket, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq finished with 11 seats, Rasheed said. A few other Sunnis won seats on other tickets.

That will give the Sunni Arabs a bigger voice in the legislature than they had in the outgoing assembly, which included only 17 from the community forming the backbone of the insurgency. Many Sunnis had boycotted the January vote.

Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the January 2005 vote.

A rival Kurdish ticket, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats, a gain of three from the outgoing parliament.

A ticket headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly. The United States installed Allawi as interim prime minister in 2004 and applauded both his tough stand against insurgents and his secular approach to politics.
Overall, I think this is a positive outcome, and believe that the UIA's need to form a coalition government could produce much needed compromise, concession and cooperation. Outright UIA dominance would have made it too easy to avoid making the hard choices and showing the flexibility that the nascent and fragile Iraqi democracy needs in order to push the political process ahead - hopefully draining the power out of the insurgency.

Nevertheless, much, if not all, will depend on who the UIA teams up with and how they go about the business of ruling. Sunni outreach and inclusion (including amending the Iraqi Constitution) is still the key to progress on the political solution front. If the UIA is able to peel away some smaller, similarly minded parties in order to get over the 138-seat hump, then the results could be less than impressive.

As a footnote, Ayad Allawi and Ahmad Chalabi have once again performed well under the much-hyped pre-election forecasts of some of their State-side cheerleaders. Despite Michael Rubin's sly prediction that there was a stealthy, underpublicized support for Chalabi in Iraq that would reveal itself on election day and surprise all the doubters, all indications are that he didn't receive even one seat in the new assembly. I guess Chalabi's support was so clandestine that it didn't want to risk being discovered at the ballot box. Still, I'm sure it's there.

Then there were the predictions of Allawi's imminent success by the likes of Robert Blackwill, who once wrote this of Iraq:

....the critics have been pessimistic and wrong for well over a year with regard to the evolution of the Iraqi political process. And they've been wrong on every single important pivotal event. They were wrong on the elections. And they will probably go on being pessimistic and go on being wrong.
Leaving aside the absurdity of Blackwill's claim (dissected here for those that want to explore further), let's see how "wrong" the pessimists and critics were about Allawi this time. First, Blackwill, based on the reports he is privy to, at the exclusion of the media in general:

The-Allawi is coming on fast, apparently, in Baghdad, especially. So I don't know whether it'll be 40-ish. Could be lower. Could be somewhat higher.
Allawi's ticket got 25 seats. Well below the "40-ish" prediction, and nowhere near the stated possibility of "somewhat higher." In Blackwill's defense, he did acknowledge that Allawi's total "could be lower." But somehow I don't get the impression he meant lower by about 40%. He was better with his predictions on the Kurdish and Sunni outcomes, but was off on the UIA's final results. Blackwill predicted a range of 100-125 seats for the UIA. They got 128. He also said that he thinks Sistani's choices for prime minister in the new government would be either Abdul Mahdi or Ayad Allawi. Based on Blackwill's track record, this doesn't bode well for Allawi's prospects.

(cross-posted at American Footprints)

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