It seems last Saturday’s provincial elections have indeed transformed Iraq’s political landscape — but not quite the way many of us expected.
First of all, the Sunni vote in Anbar appears to have been split between the Awakenings and IIP. The rifle-brandishing sheikhs have so far rejected any suggestion of power sharing, let alone accepting IIP victory. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Second, the losers. The Kurds in Mosul, obviously. Also, the Sunnis in Baghdad. Marc Lynch provides background:
[…] A dramatic increase in Sunni representation (commensurate with their aspirations) was always unlikely for one big reason: the clearly visible refusal to take serious measures to allow refugees or internally displaced persons to vote. IDPs were technically enfranchised, but the rule that they vote in their place of origin and the inefficiency of the bureaucracy ensured that few actually would. […] According to IOM’s authoritative surveys, about 64% of Iraqi displaced come from Baghdad — and it is in Baghdad where the effects of their disenfranchisement are most being felt. With less than 10% (or even 20%) of the seats in the Baghdad council, Sunnis may well feel that this warning has come true. How will they react?
But the biggest news is the decimation of ISCI. Reidar Visser makes a point you won’t see in mainstream American headlines:
Overall, this should serve as a wake-up call to the outside world, which tirelessly has sought to comply with the sectarian logic embraced by ISCI – in terms of ethno-sectarian quotas, sectarian variants of federalism, and the retrograde concept of ‘disputed areas’. It is high time that Western politicians realise that the party they have been considering as the key to Iraq’s Shiite community (and sometimes have singled out as the likely provider of the next Iraqi premier) actually commands less than 10% support in the constituency it purports to represent. In other words, for much of the period since 2003, America’s policy in Iraq has probably not enjoyed the support of more than 25% of the country’s politicians (the two Kurdish parties and ISCI). Yet, still today, Iraqis continue to be the prisoners of the ethno-sectarian system of government that emerged in this period and was designed by the two Kurdish parties and ISCI.