Iraq: Who voted and who didn't and why 

By Frontlines staff, with material from agencies

01/31/95 "Frontline"
-- BAGHDAD, Iraq – Polling places in some neighborhoods in Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit and other towns and cities around the country were empty. Participation in the elections in those places was very light.

In other areas of Baghdad, particularly the heavily fortified Green Zone and some residential areas, throughout the Northern Iraqi Kurdistan and heavily Shia areas under control of Ayatollah al-Sistani’s political forces, the polls were bulging with votes and sizable lines of voters could be observed.

The real numbers of this election are difficult to obtain as international monitors were not allowed to observe the proceedings for "security reasons." Even if we use the highly unreliable figures distributed by the Iraqi government and sources close to the US embassy in Baghdad, the results seemed to indicate a mixed bag, no matter what the different parties are trying to spin:

Eligible voters: 20-Million

Registered voters: 14 million or 70% of those eligible (280,000 registered and were eligible to vote abroad.)

Expatriates: only 25% of the 1.2-Million expatriates registered to vote and about half of them voted in 15 countries. The highest numbers of registered expatriates were in Siria, Iran and Jordan. In these countries the turnout was also the highest.

In the US and Britain, the registration of expatriates barely reached 10%. In the US, contrary to the trends elsewhere, most voters were Christian Caldeans and Asyrians, followed in numbers by Kurdish. Shias and Sunnis living in the US were either opposed to the elections or afraid of participating. Many believed the Department of Homeland Security was monitoring the polling places. 

Total voters on 1/30/05: Approximately 7 Millions or 50% of those registered or 35% of all eligible voters.

Who got the votes? The Kurdish came out as the big winners in this election. While they are about 19% of the population, they constituted 33% of the total vote as they were the best organized and the ones most able to turn out the vote. All the Kurdish parties ran as a single coalition and will most likely win over 25% of the Assembly’s seats.

The Kurdish supported the war and occupation of Iraq and had, for over a decade, established an autonomous region in the north, protected by the US. 

Al-Sistani’s United Iraqi Alliance is expected to receive 30-35% of the vote and Prime Minister Allawi hope to gather at least 25% of the vote for his Iraqi List. The other parties and coalitions are expected to poll between 15% and 20% of the vote.

al-Sistani demanded elections by calling mass demonstrations a year ago and forced Bush and the Occupation forces to abandon their plans for more limited forms of representation.

Abstentionists: 30% of the population did not register and over 40% of those registered did not vote.

Polling centers were largely empty all day in many cities of the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji, The Associated Press reported. In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Arab area of Adhamiyah, the neighborhood's four polling centers did not open, residents said. '

Dexter Filkins of the NYT wrote, ' In the town of Baji in northern Iraq, election officials did not show up. In Ramadi, where Iraqi officials set up a pair of polling places just outside the city, a total of just 300 ballots were cast, many of them by police officers and soldiers. '

The idea, mentioned by Condoleeza Rice on Sunday, that any significant number of Fallujans voted, is considered by many absurd. Most of the 250,000 Fallujans are still in exile, and the city is still occasionally the scene of fighting. There are reports of some voting in refugee camps outside the city. Many believe that is motivated by a desire to have a legitimate, elected government that could effectively demand a US withdrawal.

The more than a dozen parties and organizations calling to boycott the elections – including mostly Sunni parties and clerics, but also Christian and left leaning nationalist groupings as well as women's and human rights' groups -- will claim, no doubt, the allegiance of 50% of the Iraqi population.

A more objective assessment would establish that they, in fact, represent around 30% of all potential voters in Iraq.

Although not big organizations, some left wing and Marxist groups and a nascent Green organization called to boycot the elections as well.


The United Iraqi Alliance is said to have the backing of Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. It is expected to receive over 30-35% of the vote.

Muhammad Bazzi at Newsday discusses Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's role in the recent elections. He writes:

"Al-Sistani is especially keen to have a role in shaping the new constitution, which is supposed to be drafted by mid-August and put to a national referendum by Oct. 15.

"He is concerned about two issues: the role of Islam in Iraqi society and the extent of the political autonomy that would be granted to Kurds in northern Iraq.

"The ayatollah wants Islam to be declared the country's official faith and Islamic law to infuse civil laws.

"He is also resistant to giving Kurds a veto power over the constitution, as they currently have under an administrative law put in place by the U.S. occupation. Part of the reason for al-Sistani's backing of the unified Shia slate is to assure him a key role in drafting the constitution.

"But that is likely to rekindle the debate over the role of clergy in politics. "Al-Sistani wants to have a strong hand in drafting the constitution," Shammari said. "This will renew questions about what role he wants to play in politics." '

The UIA list is dominated by Shia Muslims, but also includes some Christians, Turkomans, Sunnis and Kurds. It does not include the followers of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The 228-candidate list contains over 20 groups, movements and political parties, including:

The Islamic Daawa party is one of the two biggest Shia parties in Iraq. It was based in Iran during the Saddam era. It is certain to play a major role in the new government. Its candidates are on the top of the list.

Party spokesman Ibrahim Jaafari is one of Iraq's two vice-presidents and could well emerge as prime minister if Allawi is not able to gather enough votes or convince the Kurdish alliance to make a deal.

The IDP is a conservative party and is the oldest of the country's Shia movements, with roots going back to the 1950s.

It has suffered some fragmentation since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and may have lost support because of its co-operation with the occupying forces in Iraq.

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, is an influential Shia party that was based in Iran for much of the time Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq.

Its leader, Abdel Aziz Hakim, is the brother of a top Shia cleric who was killed in a massive car bombing in August 2003. Abdel Aziz was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and he or a deputy will almost certainly be a major player following elections.

Sciri had its own militia, the 10,000-strong Badr Brigade, until late 2003 when private militias were banned. The body has since been renamed the Badr Organization and has worked alongside US and UK troops in Iraq.

Sciri's Iranian backing has fallen off in the face of its willingness to work with the US-backed administration in Iraq.

Badr Organization 
Central Grouping Party 
Islamic Fayli Grouping in Iraq 
Al-Fadilah Islamic Party 
First Democratic National Party 
Islamic Fayli Grouping in Iraq 
Iraq's Future Grouping 
Hezbollah Movement in Iraq 
Justice and Equality Grouping 
Iraqi National Congress 
Islamic al-Dawah Party-Iraq Organization 
Islamic Master of the Martyrs Movement 
Islamic Task Organization 
Islamic Union for Iraqi Turkomans 
The list is also said to represent the Yazidi religious minority.


The Iraqi List is headed by Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party, the Iraqi National Accord Movement.

The list is a coalition between a number of political groups, including:

Council of Iraq's Notables 
Iraqi Democrats Movement 
Democratic National Awakening Party 
Loyalty to Iraq Grouping 
Iraqi Independents Association

The list also includes former governing council member, Dr Raja Habib al-Khuzali.

Allawi received much economic support from the US and he is hoping to gather at least 25% of the vote and convince the Kurdish alliance (who disagree with al-Sistani in the central question of autonomy for the Kurdish region) to form a majority coalition in the Assembly and vote for Allawi to continue leading the government.

Allawi was a high ranking official of the Baath Party and a supporter of Saddam Hussein until the 1970s whe he fell from grace and was forced to emigrate. He collaborated for the last three decades with both the MI6 and the CIA.

KURDISH PARTIES (Kurdistan Alliance List) 
Iraq's Kurds have enjoyed autonomy in the north since the first US war against Saddam Hussein in 1991.

Their two leading political parties, who were opponents for more than a decade, have agreed to stand together in the January polls. They support a united Iraq rather than an independent Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been a dominant force in Iraqi Kurdish politics for more than half a century.

Massoud Barzani has led the KDP since 1979, through decades of conflict with the Iraqi government in Baghdad and with local rivals. 
The KDP commands tens of thousands of armed militia fighters, known as peshmerga, and controls a large area of north-western Iraq.

Mr Barzani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and a lieutenant of his is now vice-president of Iraq. He or a chosen deputy should capture a significant role following elections.

• The newer Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was founded in 1975 and describes itself as a modern social-democratic party and has branches in Iran, Turkey and Iraq. It has a history of fighting more radical left wing forces in the past, including the Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey and Kurdish Marxists in Iran.

• Under the command of the veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the PUK has created militia forces and a party organization to rival the traditionally dominant KDP.

• The party's literature says the PUK was founded in order to "rebuild and redirect Kurdish society along modern and democratic lines".

• Mr Talabani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and is likely to play a key role in the country after elections.

• Nine other parties will be represented in the Kurdistan Alliance List, reflecting the ethnic mix of the Kurdish Autonomous Area:

• Assyrian National Party 
• Chaldean Democratic Union Party 
• Democratic House of the Two Rivers Party 
• Democratic National Union of Kurdistan 
• Kurdistan Communist Party 
• Kurdistan Democratic Socialist Party 
• Kurdish Islamic Union 
• Kurdistan Movement of the Peasants and Oppressed

• Kurdistan Toilers Party (Zahmatkeshan) 
If, as expected, this list obtains 25% of the vote will become the power broker with either Allawi’s faction or al-Sistani’s forces. Two key issues are at stake: Kurdish autonomy and a prominent post in the future government for the two main leaders.


• The People's Union contains the Iraqi Communist Party, once one of the strongest communist movements in the Arab world, and an independent candidate, Hikmat Dawud Hakim.

Communist Party leader Hamid Majid Musa said the list contained "257 cultural, social and democratic figures, in addition to candidates representing various sects and nationalities". 
One of those on the People's Union list is Culture Minister Mufid Muhammad Jawad al-Jazairi, who represents the communists in the interim government.

The Communist Party was the subject of harsh repression under the Saddam Hussein regime, but re-emerged immediately after his fall. 
The party - which has existed since 1934 and helped to topple the British-backed monarchy in 1958 - traditionally draws support from poor southern Shias.

The ICP had been harshly criticized by other socialists and communists around the world for supporting the US occupation. At the same time, several members of the party, who were minor government officials had been killed by insurgents in the last few months.

• Arab Democratic Front, 50 candidates, led by Fahran Hawwas al-Sudayd. 
The aim of the Arab Democratic Front is to defend the "Arab character of Iraq with respect to the will and rights of the coexisting sects in it".

It excludes any person who worked in the dissolved Iraqi Governing Council or its institutions.

• Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement has 75 candidates, led by al-Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein.

The Iraqi Constitution Monarchy Movement is "not a political party," according to al-Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, "rather, it is a comprehensive, mass orientation". The Constitutional Monarchy Movement has called for a restoration of the Iraqi monarchy which was overthrown in 1958.


• The Association of Muslim Scholars is a Sunni religious body that has called for a boycott of the elections.

It has taken a leading role in representing Sunni Iraqis in the absence of any organized Sunni political parties. The lack of such parties is in part because of the banning of former Baath Party officials from the elections.

Shia religious leaders and US officials tried to persuade the association to drop its boycott call. The leveling of Fallujah by US forces made any deal impossible.

• Iraq's main Sunni political movement, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has also withdrawn from the elections because of the country's poor security situation.

Other parties which said they will boycott the elections include:

National Front for the Unity of Iraq 
Shaykh Muhammad Jawwad al-Khalisi (Secretary-General of the INCC) 
Dr Wamid Jamal Nazmi (Spokesman) 
Arab Nationalist Trend Movement 
Imam al-Khalisi University 
Democratic Reform Party 
United National Front 
Iraqi Turkoman Front 
Iraqi Christian Democratic Party 
Islamic Bloc in Iraq 
Office of Ayatollah Ahmad al-Husayni al-Baghdadi 
Office of Ayatollah Qasim al-Tai 
Union of Iraqi Jurists 
Higher Committee for Human Rights 
Iraqi Women's Association

These political organizations probably represent about 30% of all Iraqis, including Sunnis, Christians and Caldeans, as well as many university students and intellectuals.

Copyright: SF-Frontlines

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