Monthly Archives: March 2010

Election Preview: Iraq 2010

Iraq’s 325-member Council of Representatives is up for re-election on March 7, the second elections for that chamber since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the third parliamentary elections since Saddam’s fall (there were elections in January 2005 for a Constituent Assembly, an election boycotted by Sunni voters).

The main lines in Iraqi politics are religious lines, with three major groups: the Shi’a coalition, the Sunni coalition and a Kurdish coalition. There are also smaller secular parties, but the fact of the matter is that Iraqi elections are played on strict sectarian cleavages. The country’s Shi’a majority dominated the Constituent Assembly and got a constitution passed with little Sunni support, and they obviously dominate elections.

Here are the main coalitions ahead of the vote:

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, the leader of the old Islamic Dawa Party, has organized his supporters in the State of Law Coalition, the same which won the 2009 governorate elections by a good margin. The State of Law Coalition remains quasi-exclusively Shi’a, despite past attempts to bring various Sunni groupings such as the Awakening movements in the coalition. One could consider Maliki’s coalition as the most pro-American Shi’a coalition.

The Shi’a parties contested the 2005 elections united under the name of the United Iraqi Alliance, but Maliki’s Dawa Party has left the coalition. The coalition for the 2010 elections includes the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the Sadrist Movement led by Shi’a cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. In addition, the coalition has been joined by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his outfit. The SIIC lost control of its traditional base in Basra to Al-Maliki’s coalition in the 2009 elections, the SIIC administration there having been particularly inept.

The main Sunni coalition in the 2005 elections, the Iraqi Accord Front, has been hit hard by defections, notably the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest component of the coalition. A number of Sunni voters have probably shifted their support to the Iraqi National Movement. The Iraqi National Movement includes some secular movements such as that led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (who is a Shi’ite, but was originally involved in the pre-Saddam Baath Party) but also the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, a major Sunni alliance which decided in the end not to boycott the elections (because the INDF’s leader was banned from standing due to past association with Saddam’s Baath Party).

Politics in Iraqi Kurdistan have historically been dominated by two major parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Both parties have formed a rather solid alliance both at the regional level and national level, now known as the Kurdistani List. However, the stranglehold of both parties was weakened in the 2009 regional election, when a reformist coalition led mostly by PUK dissidents won a quarter of the votes. While the KDP-PUK wanted the reformists and the Kurd Islamists to join their coalition, both refused.

The Awakening movement, which is strong in Sunni Al-Anbar, have formed a coalition with other parties known as “Iraq’s Unity”. The coalition is led by Jawad Al-Bulani, a Shi’a.

For reference, here are the 2005 results:

United Iraqi Alliance 41.2% winning 128 seats
Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan 21.7% winning 53 seats
Iraqi Accord Front 15.1% winning 44 seats
Iraqi National List 8% winning 25 seats
Iraqi National Dialogue Front 4.1% winning 11 seats
Kurdistan Islamic Union 1.3% winning 5 seats
Others 9 seats (including 1 Turkmen, 1 Assyrian and 1 Yazidi)


The map can double up as a religious map of Iraq, although the division of the Sunni parties in 2005 (IAF and INDF) hides stronger overall ‘Sunni results’ in areas such as Salah ad Din.

Unlike the closed list PR elections in 2005, the 2010 elections will be under an open list. Furthermore, the legislature’s size will grow from 275 in 2005 to 325. All governorates will gain at least one seat, but the ‘compensatory seats’ (seats allocated to those parties whose national share of the vote isn’t reflected in the seats won at the governorate level) will drop significantly from 45 to 7, with an additional 8 new seats reserved to minorities, including Iraqi Christians (Assyrians). The vote of Iraqis abroad, originally due to be counted in the compensatory seats will be counted in the governorate where they last lived.

It’s hard to predict the outcome of this election, especially because the very strict sectarian divides of the 2005 elections have subsided a bit and the main sectarian coalitions have split. Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition is probably favoured, and Allawi’s coalition is probably his biggest rival followed closely by the SIIC-Sadrist coalition. While no major party has announced a boycott, turnout is apparently supposed to be lower than in 2005.

A referendum on the Iraq-US Status of Forces Agreement is also scheduled. The SOFA includes the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011.

Ontario by-elections 2010

There were two provincial by-elections in Ontario on March 4, both of them in Eastern Ontario. In Ottawa West-Nepean, MPP Jim Watson (Liberal) retired to run in the fall municipal elections in Ottawa; while in Leeds-Grenville, long time PC MPP Bob Runciman was appointed by Harper to the Senate. Ottawa West-Nepean’s by-election was by far the most watched of the two, the riding being one which the Conservatives will need to win in 2011 if they’re to return to power.

Ottawa West-Nepean is located in the western part of Ottawa, including the inner suburbs of the city, such as parts of Nepean. Like most of Ottawa’s west-side, the riding is largely Anglophone (63%) and generally well-off, though it has a significant visible minority population (around 25%) and describing it as a ‘wealthy white suburban riding’ would be quite off the mark. It’s a upper middle-class area, along the lines of Etobicoke in Toronto. The riding, which has a large population of federal government employees, has been a swing riding. John Baird has represented the riding federally since 2006, having previously served as MPP in Queen’s Park since 1995. Provincially, former popular Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has held the seat since 2003, winning re-election in 2007 by an exceptionally large margin, undoubtedly because of his local popularity. The PCs held the seat between 1999 and 2003, but Bob Chiarelli held the seat in the Mike Harris landslide of 1995, due more to personal and local factors than anything else (arguably, it would have gone PC were it not for these factors). With PC leader Tim Hudak counting to win the 2011 election on the same coalition which carried Harris in 1995 and 1999, this is certainly one of the ridings which the PC would need to win in 2011: a middle-class suburban seat.

The Liberals nominated another former Mayor of Ottawa, Bob Chiarelli (defeated in 2006), Chiarelli having previously represented the area until 1995. The PC candidate was Beth Graham, the NDP candidate was Pam Fitzgerald and the Green candidate was Mark Mackenzie. John Turmel contested his 73rd election here.

Bob Chiarelli (Liberal) 43.46% (-7.16%)
Beth Graham (PC) 38.99% (+7.26%)
Pam Fitzgerald (NDP) 8.43% (-1.26%)
Mark Mackenzie (Green) 8.31% (+2.03%)
John Turmel (Ind) 0.81%

The reactions to this results have been a bit all over the place, with the Liberals claiming that it’s a very strong result for them in a swing riding which is blue federally; but PCs have said that their little-known candidate’s good result is a sign of a swing back to them. Some Tories also referred to this as a ‘traditionally Liberal riding’, which is obviously intellectually dishonest. The 4-point margin is about the margin I was expecting, after the retirement of a popular incumbent with probably a large personal vote. But the truth remains that the PCs will need to actually win ridings like Ottawa West if they’re to win in 2011. Doing relatively well in them and losing by a 4-point margin won’t be enough.

I mentioned in my previous post, available here that the nomination race for the PCs in Leeds-Grenville was interesting, featuring a race between Steve Clark (former mayor of Brockville), the candidate supported by the establishment; and Shawn Carmichael of the radical Ontario Landowners Association (OLA), a group of feisty rough rural rightists. I mentioned the possibility of the OLA candidate running as an independent, but in the end Clark won and Carmichael didn’t run as an independent. Leeds-Grenville, located in rural eastern Ontario on the shores of the St. Lawrence, is a very rural (and all the things that come with it, Protestant and English) conservative area. Its previous long-time MPP, Bob Runciman, had won re-election in 2007 with 56% of the vote, after facing a surprisingly tough race in 2003. However, it is interesting to note that federally this riding went Liberal in 1988, the free-trade election won by Mulroney’s Tories. The Liberal sacrificial lamb was Stephen Mazurek, the NDP’s was Steve Armstrong and the Green candidate was Neil Kudrinko. The Libertarian Party ran in this seat with Anthony Giles.

Scott Clark (PC) 66.60% (+10.36%)
Stephen Mazurek (Liberal) 20.05% (-8.62%)
Neil Kudrinko (Green) 7.70% (+0.51%)
Steve Armstrong (NDP) 5.18% (-1.79%)
Anthony Giles (Libertarian) 0.46%

    Unsurprising large PC win, but I’m somewhat surprised by such a good result for the PCs, which even beats the 58.4% amassed by federal Conservative MP Gord Brown in his 2008 landslide victory.

    Netherlands Locals 2010

    The Netherlands held elections for the municipal councils in 394 of 431 municipalities on March 3.  Large cities, those with 200,000 and more inhabitants have councils of 45 seats, while less populated municipalities have fewer seats. These elections are regularly-scheduled, but they can be seen as a test for the early June 9, 2010 general elections, which are taking place as a result of the fall of the Balkenende 4 cabinet in February over the issue of the Netherlands’ mission in Afghanistan. However, the fact that local parties and independents are very strong in these local elections and that a number of parties, notably Wilder’s far-right PVV do not play a large role in these elections do blur the fine lines a bit.

    I won’t go into the details on the Dutch political system right now, but in a post on the European elections in the country last year, I offered a brief overview of the main parties for reference. You may read it here.

    In the 2006 local elections, the Labour Party (PvdA) won 23.2% of the vote, followed by local parties on 17.1% and the CDA at 17%. The VVD polled 13.6%. The PVV did not run in 2006, and D66 (2.7% in 2006) did not participate in a number of municipalities where they’re running this year. The PVV only ran in two municipalities this year: The Hague and Almere. Both are fertile municipalities for the far-right.

    Here are the national results for the main parties. More results here.

    Local Parties 21.2% (+4.1%) winning 2135 seats (+369)
    PvdA 15.7% (-7.5%) winning 1246 seats (-674)
    VVD 15.5% (+1.9%) winning 1405 seats (+210)
    CDA 14.8% (-2.2%) winning 1533 seats (-192)
    D66 8.1% (+5.4%) winning 534 seats (+390)
    GL 6.6% (+0.8%) winning 422 seats (+36)
    SP 4.1% (-1.3%) winning 250 seats (-56)
    ChristianUnion 3.8% (+0.1%) winning 330 seats (+9)
    Leefbaar 2.3% (-0.2%) winning 124 seats (+9)

    The Leefbaar (Livable) outfits are old centrist populist/independent local parties, the most famous of which is Leefbaar Rotterdam (which is a Fortuynist outfit).

    The big picture is generally in line with polls: the PvdA is the major loser, but the CDA suffers as well. The D66 is the big winner here, but that is blurred by the fact that the PVV only stood in two places. The PVV’s results in Almere (21.6%) seem slightly low for them, considering they did better during the European elections and lot expected them to poll in the 25-30% range there this time. Make of that what you want.

    Here are the results in the major municipalities of interest. The incumbent coalition is indicate in brackets.

    Amsterdam (PvdA-GL): PvdA 29.3% (15), VVD 16.9% (8), GL 15.1% (7), D66 14.8% (7), SP 7.3% (3), Red Amsterdam 3.7% (1), CDA 3.3% (2), PvdD 2.3% (1), TOP 2.3% (1)
    Rotterdam (PvdA-VVD-GL-CDA): PvdA 28.8% (14), Leefbaar Rotterdam 28.6% (14), VVD 9.6% (4), D66 9.3% (4), GL 7.3% (3), CDA 6.8% (3), SP 5.5% (2), CU 3% (1)
    The Hague (PvdA-VVD-GL): PvdA 21.2% (10), PVV 16.8% (8), VVD 14.6% (7), D66 11.9% (6), GL 6% (3), CDA 5.9% (3), SP 4% (2), local outfit 4.2% (2), PPS 3% (1), PvdD 2.4% (1), Islam Democrats 2.4% (1), A. Khoulani 2.4% (1)
    Utrecht (PvdA-VVD-CDA-CU): GL 20.7% (10), PvdA 18.7% (9), D66 17.8% (9), VVD 15.6% (7), CDA 7.6% (4), SP 6% (3), Leefbaar Utrecht 3.8% (1), TOP 3.8% (1), CU 3% (1)
    Almere (VVD-PvdA-CDA-CU): PVV 21.6% (9), PvdA 17.6% (8), VVD 15.3% (7), D66 8.3% (6), GL 8% (3), Leefbaar Almere 7.7% (3), SP 4.8% (2), CDA 4.6% (2), CU 2.8% (1), TOP 2.2% (1)

    Amuse yourself with more results by municipality here.

    Texas (USA) Primaries 2010

    The primaries for the American mid-term elections in November, in which a third of Senators, all Representatives, all but 14 Governors and a number of other state offices are up for election, actually began in Illinois last month with an early February 2 primary. I didn’t cover the primaries there, but I will cover the situation in Illinois later on when the races get going, but I do intend to cover upcoming interesting primaries.

    Texas held its second-in-the-nation primaries yesterday. Texas’ Governor, who has no term limits, is up for re-election, in addition to  a lot of other state offices. Texas is obviously a very Republican state, it’s the state of George W. Bush and the Governor’s office has been held by the GOP since Bush won the 1994 gubernatorial contest. Bush’s Lt. Governor, Rick Perry, assumed office following Bush’s election to the Presidency in 2000, and has held it since, making him the longest-serving Texas Governor. However, Perry has had a rocky term as Governor, with many voters, including Republicans, reproaching him his assertive nature and his education and budget fights with legislators. He won re-election in 2006 with only 39% of the vote, against 30% for Democrat Chris Bell, former Republican Carole Strayhorn (running as an Independent) with 18% and popular country singer Kinky Friedman with 12% of the vote.

    Perry faced no major primary challenge in 2006, but this year he faced an initially very tough challenge from Texas’ Senior Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has represented the state in Washington since 1993. Debra Medina, a favourite of the Ron Paul wing of the party and a libertarian activist, was the third figure in the Republican primary for Governor. Although Hutchison was heavily favoured at the outset, leading Perry 56-31 in February 2009, Perry turned the race around by May of last year and has kept a steady and widening lead on Hutchison. Perry managed a successful campaign and managed to paint Hutchison as a ‘Washington insider’, something which is bad baggage in the current American political climate. In addition, Perry has always been popular with the Christian right and social conservatives (much more so than Hutchison, who has often been portrayed as a wealthy ‘Country Club Republican’ and more liberal on social issues) which form the core of the Texas Republican Party. Medina went up to 24% in polls by early February, but her campaign was hurt by her interview by Glenn Beck, in which she was unable to clearly state that she did not believe that the US government had no role in the 9/11 attacks. Her equivocal answer to the question led her to be called a ‘truther’ by a number of politicos.

    Here are the results of the Republican primary for Governor:

    Rick Perry 51.1%
    Kay Bailey Hutchison 30.3%
    Debra Medina 18.6%

    On the Democratic side, Rick Perry will face former Houston Mayor Bill White, who is moderate and quite popular. Due to Perry’s unpopularity with state voters, Perry is likely to face a close race but current polling indicates that he has an edge of around 6 points over White.

    Kinky Friedman, now a Democrat, somewhat surprisingly and amusingly lost the Democratic primary for Commissioner of Agriculture by a narrow margin. In a final amusing result, Kesha Rogers won the Democratic nomination in TX-22. She is a LaRouchite, who notably supports the impeachment of Barack Obama.