Monday, January 24, 2005

Who's who of Iraqi political parties and lists 

Politics can be confusing at best of times (political junkies exempted), even more so in a foreign country whose political culture is very different to ours; not to mention all the unfamiliar names. To complicate the matters, many new democracies experience explosion of parties as political energies of people are liberated and can finally find legal outlet. In time, survival of the fittest narrows down the field, but during the transitional phase we have to deal with multitude of what the Poles jokingly used to refer to as "sofa parties" (because their membership could all sit together on one sofa).

On Sunday, January 30, Iraq goes to the polls - a number of sites and blogs is keeping an eye on election developments:
Friends of Democracy offers great grass-roots reporting from Iraqis around the country. In addition, you can check out these blogs: Iraq Election Newswire; Iraqi Election Diatribes; Liberating Iraq; and Truth on Iraq.

Below, to help you make sense of the results, a handy guide to who's who of major parties, lists and politicians participating.


The Islamic Daawa party - one of the two main Shia political parties and the oldest, going back to 1957 (or 1958, according to some reports), when it was first established by a group of Shia Islamic scholars headed by Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al Sadr to counter communist influences. Party spokesman Ibrahim Jaafari, a medical doctor (one of many involved in Iraqi politics, it seems), is one of Iraq's two current vice-presidents. The movement is said to have become much fragmented post-liberation.

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - the other influential Shia party, set up in 1982, was based in Iran during Saddam's rule, but subsequently largely lost that patronage as the mullahs in Tehran frown on the Council's cooperation with the Americans. The party's leader is Abdel Aziz Hakim, whose brother and the party's founder, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, has been killed in a terrorist attack in Najaf in August 2003. Until late 2003, when private militias were banned, the Council had at its disposal a 10,000-strong Badr militia. It has now been renamed Badr Organisation and is still charged with "maintaining security and stability." Hakim has now made a
statement that the American forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible, which might represent a genuine policy or merely pre-election rhetoric.

Both parties are running on the United Iraqi Alliance list, organized behind the scenes by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Besides Daawa and the Supreme Council, the List brings together another 20 political parties, groups and individuals, spanning the whole Shia political spectrum, from moderate to theocratic. The List includes Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), as well as Sunni (including the Al-Shammar tribe which also has Shia members), Kurdish, Yezidi, and Turkoman groups. Some of the interesting fringe groups on the List include Hizbella Movement in Iraq and the Islamic Master of Martyrs Movement. Muqtada al-Sadr is also said to have an informal association with the List. A prominent member of the List is Dr. Hussein Al-Shahristani, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who was originally touted as the interim prime minister, before the job eventually went to Iyad Allawi. Al-Shaharistani was one of the six prominent figures chosen by Sistani to draw up the List.


The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - the Party, based around the governorates of Dohuk and Arbil, has been led by Massoud Barzani since 1979. The party controls some of the Kurdish paramilitary forces, the famous anti-Saddam pashmergas. Barzani is currently vice-president of Iraq.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - founded in 1975, it's based around Al Suleymaniyah and the eastern section of the northern, Kurdish Iraq. The Union describes itself as a modern social-democratic party. It is led by Jalal Talabani.

On December 1, both parties announced they will be fielding a joint ticket of candidates under the name of the Kurdish Unity List. The rumor has it that Talabani and Barzani have also arrived at a power-sharing deal, under which Barzani will take the highest position in the Kurdish region's government and Talabani the highest position offered to a Kurd in the democratically elected central Iraqi government. Both parties are strong supporters of a federal system of government, which would give Kurdistan a large degree of internal autonomy. Both Talabani and Barzani are Sunnis.

Another Kurdish list, the Kurdistani Alliance List includes minor left-wing groupings like the Kurdistani National Party, Kurdistani Democratic Party, Kurdistani Islamic Union, Kurdistani Communist Party, Kurdistani Democratic Socialist Party, Kurdistani Democratic National Union, Democratic Baith-Nahrain Party, Chaldean Democratic Union Party, Assyrian National Party, Movement of Kurdistan Oppressed and Farmers, and Kurdistan Laborers Party.

Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party - founded in 2002, the Party is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party, considered by the American, Turkish and Iraqi governments to be a terrorist organisation (PKK has been involved in a protracted and bloody military conflict with Turkish authorities for the past few decades). The Party is headed by Fay'iq Muhammad Ahmad Kubi.


The Iraqi Islamic Party - currently led by Secretary-General Dr. Muhsin Abd-al-Hamid, the party has its origins in 1950s and in the past operated clandestine armed groups against Saddam. It is said to be ideologically similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, but denies official association. The Party initially supported the interim government but is at best ambivalent to the election (even though it has registered a list of candidates). It is widely seen as the champion of continuing Sunni influence in Iraqi affairs. Reader Haider Ajina reports that the Party will participate in the local elections in the Dialah province but will boycott the national poll.

The Iraqi National Movement - is led by former Governing Council member Hathem Mukhlis, claims support in strong anti-American Sunni areas. It is fielding a list of candidates together with the Iraqi Commission For Independent Civil Society Organizations.


The Iraqiyun (Iraqis) List - established by the interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, this seems to be a rather loose coalition of individuals, including the Defence Minister, Hazim Al-Sha'lan, and the Minister of Industry, Hachim Al-Hassani. Al-Yawir is a civil engineer who studied in Saudi Arabia and at Georgetown University. Himself a Sunni, he is a member of the Shammar tribe, which also includes Shiite clans and is one of the largest tribes in the Persian Gulf region.

The Iraqi List - led by the interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the List includes, among others, the Iraqi National Accord Movement, Allawi's group founded in 1990 by disgruntled former members of Iraqi military and security forces. Allawi, a Shia doctor, comes from a wealthy family and is well connected within the pre-Saddam establishment. The List also includes Iraqi Democrats Movement, Democratic National Advancement Party, Independent Iraqi Institution, Loyalty Assembly For Iraq and Iraq's Lords Council. The List comprises both Shia and Sunnis, but is Shia dominated, although considered more secular than Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance.


The Iraqi Pro-democracy Party - established by Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, two doctors and two thirds of the team which started the most popular Iraqi blog
Iraq the Model. The Party represents the best, moderate, pro-democracy force in Iraqi politics. website

The Iraqi Communist Party - Iraq's oldest political party, founded in 1934, persecuted under Saddam. Its traditional base support is among more secular, poor urban Shias as well as Kurds. The Party's Mufid Mohammad Jawad al-Jazairi is the minister of culture in the current interim government and the Party's head Hamid Majid Musa is an interim National Assembly member. Musa, a Shia, is an economist by education. The communists will run under the name of the People's Union List.

The Constitutional Monarchy Movement - one of seven opposition groups to have received American support prior to liberation of Iraq. The Movement is headed by Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, the cousin of the deposed Iraqi king, Faysal II, who was killed in the 1958 coup in Iraq. The group was not represented on the interim Governing Council. Not surprisingly, the Movement's main goal is restoration of the monarchy: "Constitutional monarchy is the one thing that could rescue Iraq from the factional conflicts between the various groups over the question of the position of the head of the state, because the Monarch would not favor one group to the detriment of another, but rather would represent all the people."

The Independent Iraqi Democrats Movement - led by veteran statesman and interim National Assembly member Adnan Pachachi, the group includes Kurdish, Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, Turkoman, and Sabean candidates. Pachachi, now 81, was the member of the Iraqi government overthrown by the Baath Party in 1968. He is a secular Sunni. Some observers expect the Movement to do well among intellectuals and the urban middle class, which is rarely a solid electoral base, even in the West.

The Iraqi National Unity Grouping - led by Nihru Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, the Grouping strives for a national reconciliation and good relations among the many Iraqi ethnic and political groups. The Grouping supports a federal Kurdistan. The Iraqi Independents Bloc - led by Dr. Ghassan Al-Attiya, has a similar program of national reconciliation.

The National Democratic Party - is fielding 48 candidates, including Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, son of a prominent Iraqi monarchist. Some commentators indicate the Party enjoys a degree of support among the educated Sunni middle class.

The People's Union - will field 275 candidates drawn from secular and left-wing Iraqis. Opposed to strong religious influence in politics, needless to say, this group includes many women.

The National Democratic Coalition list - headed by Tawfiq Al-Yassiri, who in the past organised anti-terrorism marches in Baghdad. It also includes current Justice Minister, Dr. Malik Dohan Al-Hassan.

The Independent Democratic Trend list - headed by Aziz Al-Yassiri and includes "a curious mixture of doctors, lawyers, university professors along with tribal Sheikhs, clerics, former ministers and governmental officials."

The Independent Progressive Front list - headed by Abdul-Karim Al-Rubai'i, a tribal leader from Kut. Also includes former Iraqi football players, Karim Saddam and Laith Hussein.

The Watani (National) Coalition list - a motley crew of independents, technocrats and intellectuals, including the former judge Dr. Wathiba Al-Sa'di, the writer Jasim Al-Mutayr, women rights activists Hana Edward and Fawzia Al-Abbasi, and football player Abd Kadhum.

The Democratic Community Movement List - led by Hameed Al-Kifa'i, journalist and former spokesman for the Governing Council.

Then there are smaller lists based around minor ethnic and religious groups:

Iraq's Turkmen Front - includes Turkmen Elee Party, Turkmen National Party, Independent Turkmen Movement, Iraqi Turkmen Justice Party, and Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkmen.

Democratic Al-Rafidain Coalition - incorporating the National Baith-Nahrain Union and Independent Syriac Assembly Movement, the Coalition represents Assyrian interests.

National Al-Rafidain List - it represent the Christian Assyrian, Chaldean and Armenian minorities from the Assyrian Democratic Movement and Chaldean National Council. The Coalition is headed by Yunadim Ganna, former Governing Council member and National Council member.

More information for the real political junkies:

"Iraq election: Likely candidates"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
"Analysis: Campaign Season Under Way In Iraq"

The Daily Star:
"New political landscape emerges in Iraq"

Live from Dallas:
"Announced Iraqi political coalitions"

Healing Iraq blog:
"Election Mania"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
"Iraqi Political Groups -- Part II"

Associated Press:
"Main players in Iraq's election"

Associated Press:
"Major political groups fielding candidates in Iraq's election "


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