January 28, 2005 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 203

Iraqi Elections (IV): Platforms and Campaign Strategies

January 28, 2005 | By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
Iraq | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 203

The Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30 are characterized by a democratic process: any political party, group, or even individual may choose to compete, and all competitors may campaign without restriction. On the other hand, the elections are being constricted by threats of open violence by the remnants of Saddam's regime and intimidation by terrorist groups which view democracy as inherently in contrast with Islam, and who reject man-made laws because they believe that Allah alone has the ultimate authority to determine the choices and rules of the governed.

The ballot issued by the High Commission for the Elections in Iraq is essentially a master list including lists of political parties. The ballot positions are numbered with three-digit numbers from 102 to 364. The order in which the competing entities appear on the ballot was determined by lottery: number 102 was won by an individual candidate and number 364 was won by the Kurdish Conservative Party.

The elections will be conducted under the method of proportional representation: each voter will cast his/her ballot for a slate of candidates rather than for a candidate, and the seats in the National Assembly will be distributed among the lists in proportion to the votes they receive in the elections. It is expected that only a few of these lists, perhaps three or four, will achieve a significant measure of success.

The London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat has identified the key actors as: interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (Shi'ite); interim President Ghazi al-Yawer (Sunni); the three key Shi'ite members of the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -supported United Iraqi Alliance – Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, Ahmad Chalabi, and Ibrahim al-Ja'fari (all three are Shi'ite); former foreign minister Adnan al-Pachachi (Sunni); and the two Kurdish leaders - Mas'oud Barazani and Jalal Talabani (Sunni). At the bottom of the list is the Communist Party, which is listed as the People's Union (Ittihad al-Sha'b) the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, and the Movement of Free Military Officers and Civilians. The newspaper also identifies the Independent Nationalists, who are supported by the residents of al-Sadr City, the stronghold of Muqtada al-Sadr, who has repeatedly stated that he opposes elections while Iraq is occupied and has refused to support any of the lists. [1]

This report, the fourth in a series on Iraqi elections, highlights the platforms of these political parties and movements to the extent that they have been made public. A copy of the master list in Arabic is available upon request.

The Kurdistan Alliance (#120) [2]

This list combines the candidates from the two major Kurdish political parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party under the leadership of Mas'oud Barazani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under the leadership of Jalal Talabani - and represents a slate of 165 candidates, which includes Kurds as well as representatives of Chaldean Christians and Turkomans.

Iraqi Kurdistan, which covers three of Iraq's 18 provinces, has enjoyed considerable autonomy since the invasion of Kuwait in 1991 and the subsequent no-fly zone enforced by the U.S. and British air forces until the fall of the Saddam regime in 2003.

The paramount objective of the Iraqi Kurds is the creation of a federal political system in Iraq that would guarantee their autonomy in the future. The second objective, which has been quite controversial in recent weeks, is the Kurdish demand that the city of Kirkuk, which is the main oil producing territory in the north, should be included in the Kurdish provinces. The Kurds received an electoral boost when the High Co mmission for Elections ruled that approximately 100,000 Kurds who were expelled by Saddam from Kirkuk and are now dispersed all over Iraq may vote for the city council of Kirkuk. [3]

Iraqi Independent Democrats (#158)

Dr. Adnan al-Pachachi (Sunni), a former foreign minister, leads this list, which is the only one that has made public the names of its candidates. That the 49 names were published through the group's office in London may suggest an intention to appeal specifically to Iraqi voters abroad. Without exception, everyone on the list is a professional - doctors, lawyers, university professors, and journalists - a clear indication that it is meant to appeal to the Iraqi intellectuals, and mainly to Sunnis. [4]

The main platform of the group is the creation of a federal state that would "lay the foundation to the idea of diversity within unity and sanctify the brotherhood between Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans, and other minorities." It denounces extremism in all its forms as well as violence as a means for solving problems.

The platform also calls for social justice, the elimination of unemployment and poverty, and the investment of the resources of Iraq for the benefit of its people. [5]

In foreign affairs, the platform calls for good relations with the neighboring countries "without obliterating the Iraqi identify," which can be seen as a reference against bringing Iraq under Iranian tutelage - a matter of great concern to the Iraqi Sunnis.

It is noteworthy that after calling for a six-month postponement of the elections, al-Pachachi told his supporters in Jordan that a heavy participation in the elections "is the only guarantee" to put an end to the foreign presence in Iraq. [6]

The United Iraqi Alliance (#168)

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) is a coalition of the three major Shi'ite parties in Iraq: the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), headed by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim; the Da'wa Party, headed by Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, the interim Vice President of Iraq; and the Iraqi National Congress, headed Dr. Ahmad Chalabi. Also represented in the coalition are a number of small parties, including the Iraqi Hizbullah, whose pedigree and message are not known. Al-Hakim heads the slate of 220 candidates, including a number of Sunnis and independents.

The slate was put together by a committee designated by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani and chaired by Dr. Hussein al-Shahristani, a former nuclear physicist. The picture of al-Sistani adorns the election placards, posters, and written material of UIA. It is expected that the Alliance will gain the largest number of votes in the election because the southern provinces of Iraq are relatively calm and Shi'ite voters could vote overwhelmingly for a list supported by Ayatollah al-Sistani.

By presenting a list of 220 candidates rather than the maximum allowed of 275 candidates, the major Shi'ite parties represented in UIA may be signaling that they want to keep the door open for other ethnic groups, particularly the Sunnis, to be represented at the National Assembly, and that they do not wish to be seen as even trying to obtain a unanimous approval of their list even if that result were achievable under the current circumstances.

The platform says Iraq "respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and the religion of the state is Islam." It calls for the separation of powers and, in particular, for an independent judiciary. The platform calls for the participation of women in the political, social, and economic life of the country. It also offers a comprehensive social and economic program, including social welfare and health services. In the economic domain, the platform calls for "a balanced economic policy" which remains vague in terms of the role of the private sector, particularly with regard to private investment in the oil sector.

In foreign policy the platform calls for an active role for Iraq in Arab and Islamic organization and for non-intervention in the affairs of other countries in the region. One would assume that this would apply to Kuwait and other non-Arab countries in the region. [7]

The next prime minister of Iraq will be Shi'ite, whether it is Iyad Allawi or one of the three major figures on the United Iraqi Coalition, namely al-Hakim, al-Ja'fari or Chalabi. There could also be a non-political candidate like Dr. Shahristani, who brokered the list. What is significant is that with the exception of al-Hakim, who is a cleric, turbaned, and a brother of the late Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim, and has close connections with the Iranian religious establishment; all other potential candidates are secular Shi'ites. Iraqi and international press has already quoted al-Sistani that he favors a secular Shi'ite prime minister, which is meant to send a signal reiterating his oft-stated objection to an Iranian type of regime in Iraq.

Iraqis (Iraqiyoon, #255)

This list is headed by Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer. It comprises primarily tribal chiefs from the north and south of Iraq. Initially, al-Yawer and Allawi considered presenting a joint slate. However, disagreement on who should head the list has resulted in the submission of two separate lists. Al-Yawer's slate presents only 80 candidates.

Al-Yawer belongs to the Shammar Tribe, the largest in Iraq. However, he may have been dealt a blow because his uncle, Fawaz al-Jerna, the chief of the tribe, appears on the al-Sistani-sponsored list (#168) and is slated to be selected as the next president of Iraq if #168 gains the majority of the seats in the National Assembly. On the other hand, al-Yawer has recently married Ms. Tishreen Mustapha Brawari, a Kurd and an interim minister of Local Government and Public Works, which is seen as a way of strengthening his liaison with the Kurdish parties. Ms. Brawari was recently selected by the International Economic Forum as one of 237 young leaders in the world who would shape its future.

On al-Yawer's slate is the interim Minister of Defense Hazem al-Sha'lan, who is providing most of the controversy in the Iraqi elections debate in a political campaign that has been dominated by security concerns. He referred to the UIA list as an Iranian list and has recently threatened to arrest Dr. Chalabi for making malicious statement against the government. Al-Sha'lan has come under a daily attack by the Iranian media, accusing him of committing crimes under the Saddam regime and of lacking education and competence. Additionally, in an attempt to delegitimize him they show al-Sha'lan with the Israeli flag in the background.

The Iraqi List (Al-Iraqiyyah, #285)

Headed by the interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi List (al-Qa'ima al-Iraqiyya) represents the Iraqi National Accord. Its election slogan is "strong leadership … safe homeland." In presenting his list to the press, Allawi said national unity is his primary objective. He called for national reconciliation and for drawing a distinction between Ba'thists with blood on their hands and Ba'thists with clean hands. This is a critical distinction for Allawi, a former Ba'thist himself, who is opposed to the policy of total de-Ba'thification supported by his brother-in-law and political rival, Dr. Ahmad Chalabi.

As a secular Shi'ite, Allawi has pledged to do away with ethnic politics and with nationalist or religious fanaticism.

With regard to foreign policy, he said Iraq will protect international law and will maintain its historical identity as an Arab and a Muslim country in the Middle East. In this regard, he called for the establishment of a strong and well-equipped army to protect national interests.

Allawi's list comprises 233 candidates. Among those on the list are Qasim Daoud, the interim Minister of National Security, and Hussein al-Sadr, a member of the famous al-Sadr family and the uncle of the young Shi'ite rebellious cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (the two are not on good terms). There is also a Sunni tribal sheikh, Nazzar al-Khaizaran, and the spokesman for Allawi Thair al-Naqib, the brother of the Minister of Interior Fallah al-Naqib, also Sunni. [8]

Constitutional Monarchy Movement (#349)

This movement is headed by al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein (Sunni), a cousin of the last Iraqi monarch assassinated by a military coup in 1958 which put an end to the Iraqi monarchy. The key political objective of the movement is the restoration of the monarchy under a democratic and federal regime. His list presents the maximum allowable number of candidates, namely 275. None of them - according al-Sharif Ali - represents a political party or political organization. [9]

In an interview with the London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, al-Sharif Ali maintained that a public opinion poll indicates that 69 percent of the Iraqis will like to see the restoration of a constitutional monarchy. [10] This may be a gross exaggeration because there is no evidence in the Iraqi press of such an overwhelming support for the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, other than among older Iraqi men who may harbor nostalgia for "the good old days."

Ittihad al-Sha'b (The Communist Party, #324)

The Communist Party has had a long history in Iraqi politics going back to the 1930s, most of it underground. This is the first time in the history of Iraq, and another manifestation of the political freedoms in the country, that a communist party competes publicly in national elections. In the elections, the Communist Party has chosen the name of Ittihad al-Sha'b, or People's Union, to underscore their coalition with Arab nationalists, Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, Sunnis, and Shi'ites.

The party's list presents a slate of 275 candidates, including 91 women, and is headed by its secretary-general Hamid Majid Mousa.

The Communists declare their opposition to the emergency of dictatorship in Iraq "regardless of its color." Their platform is only one among the leading platforms which advocates the separation of state and religion which would appeal to progressive, secular, and urbanite voters.

Free Officers and Civilians Movement (#220)

This movement is headed by Najib al-Salhi (Sunni) a former brigadier general in the Iraqi army. It was launched while Gen. Salhi was in exile in the United States. The list comprises 126 candidates, including 42 women. Many of the candidates are former army and air force officers who left Iraq during the Saddam regime. [11]

The Campaign

For the first time in the history of Iraq, the vast majority of the Iraqi voters inside Iraq, as distinct from those Iraqis who will participate in the elections in their countries of residence abroad, will vote freely to the extent that acts of terror do not deter them from exercising their newly-acquired rights.

Given the security constraints, the campaign depends largely on the visual media - TV commercials as well as posters and placards covering the walls of the cities. The commercials are sponsored either by the High Commission for Elections, which urge the people to vote, or by individual political parties. [12] One should not underestimate the influence of the mosque preachers who are able to reach a large segment of the Iraqi voters in both urban and rural areas. Finally, tribal sheikhs have their own way of passing on their own preferences to the members of the tribe. Mass meetings are not practical because the candidates are afraid to identify themselves and the voters are afraid to be victims of terrorist attacks.

Songs and song writing have also been mobilized for the elections. While during the Saddam regime most of the songs were sung in his praise, now they sung in honor of the nation and the requirement to participate in the elections. [13]

The elections in Iraq will be watched carefully by neighboring countries which, with the exception of Turkey, have had either limited open elections or none at all.

The Elections Commission has issued guidelines on the conduct of the campaign. One of the restrictions referred to the use of religious symbols on campaign advertisements. There were many complaints that the United Iraqi Alliance has been posting the picture of al-Sistani on its street placards and election material. It has also distributed material suggesting a vote for the Alliance list will be a response to a demand by al-Marja'iya, the center of Shi'ite religious seminaries in Najaf where al-Sistani rules supreme. A complaint to that effect was submitted by Allawi's group, which argued that "the use of the name and the picture of al-Sistani in the elections campaign violates the elections law." [14]

By and large, the campaign has been low key and civil. The major complaint by many voters is their lack of familiarity with those on the lists whose names have been kept out of the public domain because of fear for their personal safety.


There are recurrent themes in the various platforms that were highlighted. The platforms all support:

  • Creating a democratic, egalitarian, and federal system of government that guarantees the political freedoms of the various ethnic and religious groups.
  • Ending the occupation (with various degrees of urgency).
  • Building a strong but non-political army that protects the country's borders.
  • Preserving the Arab-Muslim identity of the country.
  • Putting an end to terrorism.
  • Supporting a bigger role for women in politics.
  • Assuring non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.
  • Addressing economic reconstruction with various degrees of specificity and detail.
  • Fighting growing corruption in government.

Most of the platforms, however, fail to address in specific terms the most burning issues facing the voter: the loss of sense of security; unemployment; shortage of food supplies, electricity, drinking water, and, ironically, gasoline in a country rich with water resources and perhaps with the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East. There is hardly any reference to future economic policy with regard to private investment in the oil sector, the role of the private vis-à-vis the public sector, and the privatization of inefficient public entities.

The government that will be established after the elections will face enormous challenges. To succeed it will need to come up with a crash program, a "New Deal," that would provide quick and palpable relief.

Almost forty years ago, then a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Near Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, this author prefaced an article on development planning in Iraq as follows: "At first inspection, Iraq would appear to be a planner's paradise. Its very favorable man-land ratio, its abundance of water and, above all, its constantly growing income originating from oil royalties would appear to provide an ideal setting for an ambitious long-term development policy." [15]

This assessment would seem to be valid today strengthened by the financial resources committed by donors and waiting to be used.

* Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.

To read the first report on Iraqi elections, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 199, December 15, 2004, 'Iraqi Elections (I): The Imperatives of Elections on Schedule;'

Iraqi Elections (I): The Imperatives of Elections on Schedule.

To read the second report on Iraqi elections, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 201, December 31, 2004, 'Iraqi Elections (II): The Launching of the Campaign;'

Iraqi Elections (II): The Launching of the Campaign.

To read the third report on Iraqi elections, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 202, January 18, 2005, 'Iraqi Elections (III): The Islamist and Terrorist Threats;'

Iraqi Elections (III): The Islamist and Terrorist Threats.

[1] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), January 20, 2005.

[2] The number which appears next to the name is that entity's number on the master list.

[3] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), January 22, 2005.

[4] Correspondence with Iraqi Independence Democrat party -

[5] Ibid.

[6] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), January 15, 2005.


[8] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), December 16, 2004.

[9] Al-Zaman (Baghdad), December 29, 2004.

[10] Al-Sharq al-Awsat, December 26, 2004.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), December 19, 2004.

[12] MEMRI TV Monitor Project, Clip No. 499. To view the clip, visit

[13] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), January 15, 2005.

[14] Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), January 14, 2005.

[15] Nimrod Raphaeli, "Development Planning in Iraq under the Hashemite Regime," 'Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society,' June 1966, p.147.

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