Volume. 11693

Iraqi provincial election, a bellwether for political parties
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The recent provincial elections in Iraq, the first since U.S. troops left the country in 2011, was a major test that will allow each political party and bloc to assess its base of support among the electorate. The results of the elections will be very important in determining Iraq’s political makeup in the future since provinces have a strong position in Iraq’s federal governance system, and each province has a specific degree of influence on the country’s political and social affairs. 
The provincial election provided an opportunity for the government to prove its ability to maintain order and security without the help of foreigners. Since the withdrawal of the occupation forces in 2011, many were expecting that Iraq would be unable to exercise democracy on its own. However, the government organized a successful election, and Saturday's voting was mostly peaceful.
However, the elections were delayed in two provinces because of unstable security conditions, but officials later announced that those provinces would vote on July 4. Any misstep by the government in the electoral process in those areas may complicate the situation since the opposition is looking for an opportunity to highlight the weaknesses of the government and create a new controversy.    
The rise of sectarian disputes in Iraq over the past few months has greatly jeopardized the prospects for a stable Iraq. The main battle is between two major political blocs. The first is comprised of followers of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a majority of members of parliament, while the opposition group includes major pro-Western politicians, such as secular Shia politician Ayad Allawi, sacked vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, and some Sunni figures. It is common knowledge that the latter group has connections with Turkey and reactionary Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. 
The final results of the provincial elections will definitely show the real base of those two bloc’s popular support in the country, and the winner will certainly have a great advantage in the parliamentary election of 2014. The initial results indicate that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition won a slight majority over its rivals. This will seriously improve Maliki’s chances for reelection in the national election next year.
Syrus Borna Beldaji is a former Iranian parliamentarian and an expert on Iraqi politics based in Tehran. 

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