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Analysis: Campaign Season Under Way In Iraq

  • Kathleen Ridolfo

Interim Prime Minister Allawi heads his own Iraqi List party. Campaign season is officially under way in Iraq as political parties vie for support ahead of Iraq's national elections in January. Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission spokesman Farid Ayar told reporters in Baghdad on 13 December that the commission had received 70 electoral lists from political parties, groupings, and independent candidates vying to compete for the 275 parliamentary seats in January's national elections. The commission had received at least six lists representing coalition slates -- lists grouping a number of parties and candidates together -- while about 65 other lists represented independent parties and individuals, he said. The deadline to register passed on 15 December. A look at some of the candidate lists follows.

Constitutional Monarchy Movement. Headed by Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, the party announced on 12 December that it has submitted a 275 member list to the Electoral Commission. Details of the list are not known. Al-Husayn is the cousin of the deposed Iraqi king, Faysal II, who was killed in the 1958 coup in Iraq. The movement was one of seven opposition groups to receive financial support from the United States prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, the group was not afforded a seat on the interim Governing Council, much to the chagrin of al-Husayn.

Independent Iraqi Democrats Movement. Led by veteran statesman and interim National Assembly member Adnan Pachachi, the group has joined with other entities to form a unified list. Pachachi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq on 12 December that the list includes Kurdish, Arab, Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, Turkoman, and Sabean candidates. Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 15 December that candidates on the list include Electricity Minister Iyham al-Samarra'i; Culture Ministry Undersecretary Maysun al-Damaluji; Al-Sadr City notables Jalal al-Mashitah and Imad Jasim; Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafiz; Housing Minister Umar al-Faruq al-Damaluji; Labor and Social Affairs Minister Layla Abd-al-Latif; Environment Minister Mishkat al-Mu'min; and interim National Assembly member Sa'd Abd al-Razzaq. Abd al-Razzaq is a member of Pachachi's party and served as the latter's representative in Al-Fallujah when Pachachi served on the Governing Council.

Iraqiyun (Iraqis). Established by interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, the list was announced at a 1 December press conference broadcast on Al-Arabiyah television. Al-Yawir said the list "Is tantamount to a grouping for all the sons of Iraq from the different religions, sects, nationalities, and social classes." It supports the idea of a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal state, and advocates a national dialogue. "This [political] entity will be part of a team made up of several political entities and parties in the Iraqi arena," al-Yawir said. The president declined to name the parties and individuals affiliated with his party, saying the membership will be announced soon.

Iraqi Islamic Party. Sunni political party led by Secretary-General Dr. Muhsin Abd-al-Hamid (who served on the Iraqi Governing Council) and by Assistant Secretary-General Iyad Al-Samarra'i. Although ideologically similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, top officials within the Iraqi Islamic Party insist that no formal association exists between the two groups. The party was established in the late 1950s and operated clandestine armed groups, at one time purported to have some 2,000 armed members. The group has claimed that it is amenable to a federalist system, wherein the Kurdish region of Iraq would enjoy a degree of autonomy. The party, which operates Dar al-Salam Radio, said in a 7 June 2004 broadcast that it supported the interim Iraqi government, despite not being afforded a position within the government. However, its stance changed in recent months and the party boycotted the interim government and participation in January elections, which it claimed would be illegitimate under occupation. Party officials in recent weeks demanded that elections be postponed. However, the Independent Electoral Commission announced that the party registered a candidate list during the first week in December. Some party members said that the party was reserving its right to participate, while other members continued to deny that the party would participate.

Iraqi List. Led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the list is reportedly comprised of leading tribal figures. Details of the list are sketchy. Speaking to reporters at a 15 December press conference, Allawi pledged to work for national unity and move away from "religious and ethnic fanaticism," AP reported. "By depending on God, and with a firm determination and based on strong confidence in the abilities of our people, we are capable of confronting the difficulties and challenges and of making a bright future for our honorable people." There are unconfirmed Iraqi media reports that the Iraqi List may be merged with interim President Ghazi al-Yawir's Iraqiyun list.

Iraqi National Unity Grouping. Led by 35-year-old Nihru Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, the grouping calls for a national reconciliation among Iraqi ethnic and political groups. He believes that Kirkuk should be a city for all ethnic groups, and claims to have good relations with Kurdish, Arab, and Turkoman parties. He supports a federal Kurdistan. Al-Husayni told "Al-Mashriq" in an 8 December interview that his party did not join the Governing Council "because we felt that this council posed a danger that would entrench abhorrent sectarianism and unleash the hand of political groups that want to meddle in the future of Iraq." Al-Husayni claims that his party lost 50 members who either were killed or disappeared under the regime of Saddam Hussein; he added that members of his family were arrested. He is the son of Sheikh Muhammad al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, who leads the Qadiriyah Al-Kasanzaniyah religious school. Al-Husayni has said that his party will contest January elections on an independent list, rather than forming an alliance with other political parties.

Kurdish Unity List. Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), announced on 1 December that they would run a joint list called the Kurdish Unity List. KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani and PUK head Jalal Talabani addressed the media following a meeting in Salah Al-Din that was broadcast on Kurdistan Satellite Television the same day. Barzani called the agreement "historic," adding, "We have decided to enter both the [parliamentary] elections in Iraq and the [parliamentary] elections in Kurdistan on a joint list." He noted that smaller parties allied with the Kurdish groups will be included on what he termed the "broad national list."

Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party. The party, headed by Fay'iq Muhammad Ahmad Kubi, announced that it will field candidates in both the national and Kurdistan parliament elections on an independent list. The party was founded in 2002 and is an offshoot of the former Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The party's public relations chief, Diyar Gharib, told "Al-Manar al-Yawm" in an interview published on 9 October that his party is "a democratic party that relies on democratic dialogue." "We are intellectuals from Iraqi Kurdistan and principally intellectuals from all of Iraq who initially tried to form an intellectual group so as to be able to participate in the activities that are taking place throughout Iraq." He claimed that his party attempted to participate in August's interim National Assembly election but, mysteriously, its delegate list was never received.

People's Union List. The Iraqi Communist Party announced on 11 December that it would participate in elections under the name People's Union list. Party head Hamid Majid Musa, an interim National Assembly member and former Governing Council member, said in a statement that the party's list is an independent list that includes the names of 257 cultural, social, and democratic figures.

United Iraqi Alliance. Organized at the behest of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the alliance was announced on 9 December. It is a coalition of 22 political parties and groups, including candidates from the two largest Shi'ite political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party. Other candidates on the list reportedly include Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi, as well as Sunni, Kurdish, Yezidi, and Turkoman groups, as well as the Al-Shammar tribe. The tribe is comprised of both Sunni and Shi'a members. Rebel Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Al-Sadr II Movement will reportedly not officially join the list, but it was reported that the movement's representatives will be listed as independent candidates on it.
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