There are six candidates for the post of prime minister: the current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, Minister of Finance Baqer Jaber Solage, Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the first post-Saddam Iraqi government, the controversial financier linked to the CIA and former deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi, and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani. This time the political spectrum of candidates in the running are very different than that of the last elections in 2005.
The split of the Shiites
The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite coalition that won in 2005, no longer exists. Its dissolution has marked the split of the Shiites. The new coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), brings together parties along more confessional lines, such as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) led by Ammar al-Hakim, a current of Moqtada al-Sadr and Fadhila party, but does not include the followers of the Da’wa Party who have remained loyal to al-Maliki, who has founded a new list. It is the Alliance for the Rule of Law, which aims to have a more nationalist and secular spirit (so much so that he tried to involve some Sunnis and Kurds), but has failed to unmark a suspected close reliance on the Islamic regime in Tehran . The recent campaign de-baathification – which excluded 500 candidates, mostly Sunnis - put the outgoing premier in a bad light for having supported the move, causing him to lose credibility as a figure above the sectarian struggles.
It’s a real debut at the polls, however, for the Iraqi National Movement (INM), led by former prime minister, Iyad Allawi (Shiite). The coalition also includes several Sunni formations and offers itself as the only real secular grouping. The INM is the greatest opponent to the INA and the list of al-Maliki, and was also struck by the controversial de-baathification campaign.
The Sunni Front
After the boycott of the vote in 2005, a choice that relegated them to the margins of decision making in the country, the Sunnis seem willing to take part in the elections. Sunni political groupings are present within INMA, but also on independent lists.
Although the formations have maintained a strong Kurdish identity, even here the political landscape has changed. For the two historical parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have been moine by Gorran (Movement for Change), led by a former member of the PUK, Pusherwan Mustafa. The movement that emerged in the regional elections in July, promotes itself as independent and the sole opponent of corruption and cronyism.
The idea now seems established that national reconciliation is no longer an issue of resolving the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, but between advocates of a centralized unitary state (the formation of al-Maliki) and proponents of a federal or confederal state (Kurds and of the Sunnis), between defenders of a secular approach (Allawi) and defenders of a religious approach.