Foreign Policy Blogs

Elections Bring Mixed Results

The February 2009 Iraq elections have brought peace and acceptance to some citizens and violence and threats to others, and still power to a select few, as various media sources have reported. 

Reuters’ AlertNet reported on February 19 that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s allies have won a considerable victory in Basra, gaining the majority of the provincial council seats and control over Iraq’s “oil hub.”  Maliki’s party beat out their Shi’a rivals in many southern provinces, leading political analysts to believe that Iraq’s intense sectarian politics may be fizzling. 


iraqprovincesReuters continues, stating in Anbar, a western province, Sunni tribal chiefs took the majority.  In the northern province in Nineveh, where violence has yet to be quelled, Sunnis took power back after being excluded because of their boycott in the 2005 elections. 

As the International Herald Tribune reported the same day, the vast majority of Baghdad council seats have also gone to al-Maliki’s party, Coalition of the State of Law.  It seems that most other provinces were more equally divided among separate parties, however these typically have similar ideologies.  For instance, Najaf was almost equally divided among differing Shi’a parties, with the secular groups gaining a very small minority. 

Juan Cole, of Informed Comment, reported a few days after the elections that most voters seem to be in favor of a strong central state.  However, quoting Mcclatchy, he states that voter turn out is thought to have been only 51%.  And unfortunately, attempting to compare numbers from the 2005 elections would be a lost cause taking into account the Sunni boycott. 

The 2009 elections are being described as mostly peaceful, which, in my opinion, is the best news to come out of this event.  In fact, many believe the cause of the violence in Sunni-majority areas was their resentment over their loss of power due to the boycott in 2005 (Reuters).  If this is the case, we can (hopefully) expect violence in these areas to subside in the coming months. 

Iraqis go to the polls

However, in a separate article, published on February 10, the International Herald Tribune discusses the election aftermath.   US and Iraqi officials fear more violence in the Anbar provinces as these new councils take over.  No one party won more than 17.6% of the vote, which could raise tensions even more.  Even in the hours and days following the elections, some tribal leaders returned to their violent ways by threatening coups, major fires and killing.  Much of this is fueled by claims by the Iraqi Islamic Party that they won the province, when instead, they’re being accused of election fraud (the central election commission did take this accusation into account by rejecting some ballots before announcing the results). 

Even in only the ten days following the elections, at least four candidates avoided assassination attempts.  This of course does not include the candidates who weren’t as lucky, having been killed prior to the elections.  We can only hope that the Iraqi security forces are able to seat these councils will as little violence as possible. 

For the full results, see the International Herald Tribune. 


Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;