Factbox: Who is participating in the elections in Iraq?
BAGHDAD, Sept.28 (Reuters) – Iraq holds a general election on October 10, its fifth parliamentary vote since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and ushered in a complex multi-party system contested by groups broadly defined by sect or ethnicity.
The vote had been set for next year but was brought forward to satisfy protesters who took to the streets in 2019 against widespread corruption, poor services and the widely held view that the elite had abused power to get rich.
Groups from the Shiite Muslim majority should remain in charge, as they have been since Saddam’s Sunni regime was overthrown.
But the Shiites are sharply divided, including over the influence of neighboring Shia Iran.
Activists who called for the removal of the entire political class were divided over whether to challenge the vote and are expected to win a few seats at most. A new electoral law also guarantees women at least 83 seats in parliament.
Here are the main groups vying for the 329 seats in parliament:
THE SADRIST MOVEMENT
The political organization of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the Sadrist Movement, is set to become by far the largest faction in parliament.
The Sadr-led Saeroon alliance won 54 seats in 2018, more than any other faction, giving Sadr a decisive influence in forming the government. His movement used its parliamentary influence to expand its control over large parts of the state.
The Sadrist movement operates on a nationalist platform, seeking to distance itself from Shiite factions backed by Iran.
Sadr led Shiite militants against American forces after the invasion and inherited a cult similar to that of the impoverished Shiites who worshiped his father Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was killed by Saddam’s regime.
GROUPS ALIGNED ON IRAN
Led by commanders of militias with close ties to Iran, the largest group of Iran-aligned parties fall under the Fatah Alliance led by paramilitary leader Hadi al-Amiri, whose bloc came second in 2018 with 48 seats.
The Fatah Alliance includes the political wing of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, whom the United States has called a terrorist organization, and also represents the Badr Organization, which has long-standing ties to Tehran and has fought alongside of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.
The Shiite paramilitaries all played a major role in the defeat of the Islamic State when it seized a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017.
Some Iran-aligned parties are running outside the Fatah umbrella, including the new Huqouq party of Iran’s most powerful Iraqi proxy, Kataib Hezbollah.
OTHER CHI’ITE ALLIANCES
Former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and moderate Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim’s Hikma movement joined forces to create the Alliance of National State Forces.
An alliance led by Abadi came third in 2018, winning 42 seats, after presiding over the defeat of Islamic State.
Hikma won 19.
Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a top leader of one of Iraq’s oldest Shiite political parties, Dawa, heads the rule of law coalition which won 25 seats in 2018. Maliki is widely accused of ‘fueling the corruption and anti-Sunni bigotry that helped Islamic State gain supporters.
Sunni parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi heads the Taqaddum Alliance, or Progress, which includes several Sunni majority Sunni leaders in northern and western Iraq and is expected to get many Sunni votes.
Halbousi’s main competitor is Khamis al-Khanjar, a tycoon who joined the Iranian-backed Fatah Alliance after the 2018 elections. Khanjar’s coalition is called Azm.
Sunni parties generally seek to appeal to tribal and clan loyalties. Sunni groups have shown little unity since 2003, which Sunni voters say makes them weak in their attempts to compete with Shia power.
Sunnis were attacked and discouraged from participating in Iraq’s first elections after 2003 by Sunni insurgents who supported Saddam and Islamist activists opposed to democracy.
The northern Iraqi Kurdistan region has enjoyed de facto autonomy since 1991 and officially became autonomous under the Iraqi constitution of 2005. Its parties still participate in elections and are an important power broker.
The two main Kurdish parties are the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK), which dominates the Kurdish government in the capital Erbil, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, which dominates areas along the Iranian border and is headquartered is in Sulaimaniya.
The KDP won 25 seats in 2018 and the PUK won 18. They will retain the lion’s share of the Kurdish votes, followed by the smaller parties. The total tally of seven Kurdish parties in 2018 was 58.
While the 2019 protests led to the previous government resigning, little has changed since then. The struggle they faced was evidenced by the use of lethal force against the demonstrators.
Some of the activists who demonstrated in 2019 are calling for a boycott. But others have formed their own parties or joined moderate coalitions like that of Abadi and Hakim.
The Imtidad Movement is one of the few militant-led parties to field candidates, led by pharmacologist Alaa al-Rikabi, from Nassiriya, southern Iraq, where some of the deadliest attacks on protesters took place in 2019.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison; Editing by Tom Perry and Giles Elgood
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