Iraqi provincial elections are over, and while the purple ink is drying, the tallying continues until Thursday.
There have been various election-related assassinations across the country (six candidates specifically), but one of the biggest slaughters took place a month ago, when a suicide blast killed 24 Awakening Movement tribal leaders while they gathered for a meeting. One of the trusted participants blew himself up. The Awakening Movement consists largely of Sunni tribal leaders, former Iraqi military personnel, and former insurgents. The Movement is largely responsible for the sharp decrease in violence that transformed Anbar Province, including Fallujah and Ramadi, from one of the most violent regions (referred to as the “Wild West” in 2004, according to Corporal Kyle Shields) to one of the calmest.
According to the Washington Post article “Iraqis Anxious Over Outcome of Provincial Elections”, the Anbar tribes may not gain the ground they sought, but it’s a lot of conjecture right now. Only 42% voted in Anbar this go round, one of the lowest turnouts in Iraq, but the tribal party can only improve their representational status, since many of the Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections. Their main competition comes from the Iraqi Islamic Party (religious Sunnis) who now hold 26 of the 29 Anbar Provincial Council seats, which the Washington Post compares to “state legislatures in the United States, that dispense patronage locally.”
Things got a little hot in Anbar when Hameed al-Hais accused the Iraqi Islamic Party of rigging the election. “We will not let al-Qaeda return to Anbar through the IIP,” he said. Al-Hais is known for fiery rhetoric—last month he told the Washington Post: “If anything happens to any of our candidates, even a scratch on one of their bodies, we will kill all of their candidates!” A curfew was imposed.
Al Jazeera reported that citizens’ disappointment with the legislative results following religiously motivated elections in 2005 could help more secular candidates. According to the first reports coming in, this is in fact what is taking place. Maliki’s Dawa Party appears to have made solid gains.
It will be interesting to see how the election plays out, particularly whether Baghdad will end up with the strong central government that Prime Minister Maliki says he desires.