Iraqi independent candidates likely to have weak chances of winning local polls

Iraqi independent candidates likely to have weak chances of winning local polls

Traditional major parties are more likely to dominate local elections slated for December

By Haydar Karaalp

BAGHDAD (AA) - Iraqi independent candidates and new parties are less likely to win the local elections scheduled for the end of year, according to political experts.

The Iraqi High Election Commission announced that 270 political parties and blocs will participate in the local elections slated for December.

Provincial councils to be formed through local elections will have the authority to elect city governors, while district councils will have the power to elect district governors.

Local councils will also have the right to utilize the budget allocated to cities for projects of public services.

Al Nasr Coalition led by Haydar al-Abadi and National Wisdom Movement headed by Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim run the election as an alliance. Both groups are a part of the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, an umbrella of Shia groups, which is expected to be the frontrunner of the elections.

Meanwhile, former Premier Nouri al-Maliki, secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party, is reportedly not going to form an alliance with other political groups.

Another Shiite leader who has not been heard from is Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr, who has a broad Shia base, won the most seats in the parliament by winning the general elections two years ago.

However, the Shia leader later announced withdrawal from politics and had the lawmakers from his group resign.

It is not yet clear whether the Shia leader, who is not close to Iran, will participate in the local elections.

However, Al-Sadr's supporters who recently stormed the Swedish Embassy over desecration of the Quran could be an indication that he may participate in the local elections.

The Takaddum Party coalition, led by Muhammed Halbusi, is also one of the most important political blocs in regions with a predominantly Sunni population. In addition to Halbusi, other blocs that are preparing for local elections in Sunni regions are the Sovereignty Coalition headed by Khamis Al-Khanjar and al-Hasim Coalition, which includes Sunni leaders such as former Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and some incumbent Cabinet members.

Regarding Turkmen and Kurdish parties, they are likely to form alliances to run for the elections.

- Advantage of traditional parties

Speaking to Anadolu, Ihssan Shamry, head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Center, said that the chance of success for independent candidates and newly formed parties in local elections will depend on the behavior of the voters on one hand, and on the strong and realistic promises and speech of these parties on the other.

“Traditional parties (Shia), which have held the important financial institutions of the state for years, will use these budgets in the local elections during the campaign period. The situation of the new parties will be difficult in the face of this situation,” he said.

Expressing his concern that independent candidates and new parties may face difficulties in the election process, Shamry said that these parties "cannot compete with traditional parties in terms of arms and finances."

The Iraqi political analyst emphasized that the election law passed by the parliament is not in the interest of independent candidates.

He said that political parties established after mass demonstrations in Iraq in 2019 and independent candidates should join the elections as blocs to increase their chances.

For his part, Iraqi political analyst Ahmed al-Yasiri also stated that traditional parties have a chance to win in provincial assemblies.

He also mentioned the possibility of al-Sadr participating in local elections saying: "Al-Sadr Movement will either support independent groups or participate in the local elections as an independent bloc."

Still, al-Yasiri did not rule out that the al-Sadr Movement may completely refrain from participating in the local elections due to not being close to local councils.

- Lack of experience, funds

Political analyst Aid al-Hilali pointed out that traditional Shia parties are expected to have a strong presence in the elections they are preparing for citing their influence in the capital Baghdad and southern provinces.

“The new election law (one list system in each province) will benefit the traditional parties. These parties also have a base and big funds from the state over the years that enables them to finance themselves,” he said.

On the other hand, al-Hilali asserted that the newly formed parties lack such advantages.

“The newly formed parties have neither political experience nor money so that they can win the elections,” he said. “These parties could build a new political era, but the current environment will not allow it. If these parties can participate in the local elections as an alliance, not alone, they may achieve some success.”

Regarding al-Sadr, al-Hilali noted that al-Sadr’s supporters “strongly want to participate in local elections.”

In the Quran protests, they gave the message to other political parties that they are still in the political scene.

“Al-Sadr's base also exerts pressure on their leaders to return to politics. However, I think that their leader al-Sadr tends to stay away from politics,” the political analyst added.

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