Iran-backed Shiite parties strengthen grip on power in provincial elections

Last week, Iraq held its first provincial council elections in more than a decade

A worker with Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission carries a sealed ballot box in Baghdad following the provincial elections. AFP
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Iran-allied political factions in Iraq have strengthened their grip on provincial councils in Baghdad and parts of the Shiite heartland, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission, which announced the final results of the elections late on Thursday.

Last week, Iraq held its first provincial council elections in more than a decade. Supporters of Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr – the main rival to pro-Iran political parties – and others boycotted the elections.

The overall turnout was 41 per cent, according to the commission.

There were no major changes to the seats won by political parties after the preliminary results were announced the day after the elections, with 94.4 per cent of the vote counted.

The remarkable change was in Baghdad, where former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law alliance came first, followed by the Nabni (We Build) alliance, which brought together powerful Iran-backed Shiite militias.

The Taqadum alliance, led by ousted parliament speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi, moved from first to third in Baghdad.

The State of Law, Nabni and State Forces alliance, led by cleric Ammar Al Hakim, were the top winners in the provinces of Qadissiyah, Muthana, Najaf, Babil, Dhi Qar and Maysan.

In the southern oil-rich province of Basra, they followed the Tasmim alliance, which is backed by popular governor Asaad Al Eidani. They also followed Karbala Creativity alliance in Karbala province and Beautiful Wassit in Wassit province.

In Anbar, Taqadum came first and also won seats in the Sunni-dominated provinces of Nineveh and Salaheddin, as well as Diyala, which has a mixed population.

In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, the Kirkuk Is Our Strength Alliance, led by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, or the PUK, came first, followed by Arab and Turkmen alliances.

The PUK is one of the two main Kurdish parties. Its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, moved to second after a Sunni Arab alliance.

The vote took place in only 15 of the 18 provinces. Three provinces, which form the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, operate under a separate autonomous system.

The local elections were last held in April 2013 and had been delayed since due to security concerns after ISIS swept through nearly a third of Iraq in mid-2014.

Following the defeat of ISIS, there was widespread unrest due to pro-reform protests that broke out in October 2019 and were answered with a harsh crackdown by the Iraqi government.

Updated: December 28, 2023, 10:40 PM