The initial results of the Iraqi elections from 9 provinces (out of 18) plus Baghdad (the capital and largest city) are in; and they do not bode well for the current Prime Minister, Abadi, nor two of his predecessors, Almaliki, and Alawi. Their political lists and alliances are lagging in almost all announced provinces, in Baghdad, the lion’s share of the votes, The Victory Alliance (PM Abadi’s list) is not even among the top three, instead, a surprising surge by the Sadrist List led by Shia Militia leader, Moqtada el-Sadr, On The Move (Sa’roun- سائرون) has swept a substantial share of votes in Baghdad and most other provinces, finishing either top or second. The other list that made surprising gains is Conquest Alliance (el-Fateh, الفتح), led by notorious, Badr Organization leaedr, Hadi AlAmiri, a Shia hardliner group that gained momentum for organizing civil militias to fight against ISIL.
On The Move, is essentially composed of the Sadrist movement, and The Communist Party, the alliance was unexpected and has puzzled many political experts as the Iraqi communist party tends to be led by secular and atheists while the Sadr movement is a theologically-driven, Shia political group that has very little in common with the seculars. It is also important to mention that Moqtada el-Sadr was once an enemy of the US as his militia was involved in a year long conflict against the US troops, so the possibility of him leading the country is very troublesome for the US… However, he is no friend of Iran either, el-Sadr has been quite a critic of the Irani influence over Iraq and he aims to put an end to this cozy relationship with Iran, or at least that is what he claims. So far it appears that this unorthodox alliance between a religious Shia group and the communist party has actually worked, The list, On The Move, is bound to end up with mosts seats of any other group, though very far from the 165 seats needed for majority, it is not clear what kind of coalition would be created to form a government, as this is the sole list that is not blessed be neither Iran (which prefers Hadi AlAmiri, or former PM Nouri Almaliki) nor the US (Washington’s preference goes to current PM Haider Alabadi).
Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose party is leading.
Prime Minister, Al-Abadi, walked into the election night with great confidence and clear advantage. He is, after all, widely credited for the defeat of ISIL, hence why his political alliance is called “Victory Alliance”. He essentially ended the secessionist efforts of the Kurds, united Iraq by ditching sectarian policies, and also rebounded Iraq’s crumbling economy following the oil prices drop of 2014. Iraq’s current situation is vastly different from where it was in 2014, when Abadi came to power, no wonder why the Sunni province of Nineveh (where Mosul is, once ISIL’s most important controlled city) voted for him and ignoring sectarian lines. It is unclear what exactly is the reasons for Abadi’s underperformance, and even less clear whether he will be in charge of forming a government if his numbers don’t improve when the other 8 provinces post their results. However, one very possible reason for the shocking results is the low turnout.
Sadr City, with a population of 3.5 million, is highlighted in red, shows its relatively large size in Baghdad.
In Baghdad for example, the Western bank of the Tigris river where Sadr city is located, had slightly higher turnout than the Eastern bank, that could explain how the Baghdad results skewed way more towards the Sadrist movement. Sadr city is the largest neighborhood in Baghdad in term so area size and population, and also among its poorest. Home to 3.5 million people, that is roughly 40% of Baghdad’s population of 8.5 million.The appeal of populism that Sadrists and communists campaigned on could have helped put them on the top as economic inequality in Iraq has never been wider, and especially in Sadr city where poverty and unemployment rates hover really high.
In the end, its not clear which party will be in charge of forming the government, if the Sadr movement gets its way, it means that Iraq will drift away from both, US and Irani influence…. if the Shia hardliners (Al Amiri, Conquest Alliance) gets their way, it could mean an even larger Irani influence over Iraq, and with Trump’s rhetoric against Iran, The Iraqis would risk being a battlefield between two powerful, conflicting countries, and that could have a hefty price tag on the Iraqi people who have gone through more than fair share of conflicts and wars.