Iraq's national elections earlier this March were generally successful. Officials are still releasing vote counts, which currently stand at about two-thirds of total ballots cast. The counts could change but the contours of Iraq's new government are beginning to show. With Iraqi democracy so young, the results also reveal key details about the country's political character. Here are the politicians, parties and movements who are being pushed out or pushed up by Iraqi voters.
- Prime Minister Maliki Voted Out? Current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his political party State of Law, which emphasizes security and safety but has been marred by accusations of ties to Iran, isn't doing well. It appears he could be edged out by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia with some support among Sunnis, who was Prime Minister in 2004 and 2005. The New York Times' Anthony Shadid calls it "a victory for a cross-sectarian alliance that hewed to a nationalist line." Reuters' Ahmed Rasheed asks of a possible Sunni-supported Allawi win, "Iraq's Sectarian Era Over?"
- Anti-American Sadr Party Sweeps The coalition backed by Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who is in exile in Iran after leading a bloody insurgency against the Americans, has been the surprise winner in the elections. The New York Time's Anthony Shadid warns that this "underscores a striking trend in Iraqi politics: a collapse in support for many former exiles who collaborated with the United States after the 2003 invasion." Shadid calls the Sadr movement "martial," "populist" and "steadfast in opposition to any ties with the United States." He predicts they will become the "wild card" in Iraqi politics.
- What Sadr's Influence Means Spencer Ackerman lays it out: Political pressure for the U.S. to stick to its withdrawal schedule. "It's important to distinguish the Sadrists from Sadr. Because whatever you think of Sadr, the Sadrists are a pragmatic bunch," he writes. "They entrench their ties to their people by the mundane but crucial work of collecting garbage as much as turning the Health Ministry into a torture chamber for Sunnis." The biggest immediate meaning for Americans: "The Sadrist parliamentary rise will almost certainly constrain Maliki from any impulse he might feel to renegotiate the SOFA."
- Sunni Awakening Loses Big Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch notes that the awakening movement of Sunni militias, who joined with Americans to help restore Iraq from the brink of civil war, are faring poorly. "Leaders of the Awakening may not have found a path to national political power through the ballot box after all." Despite concerns that Awakening leaders would resort to violence if shut out of government, Lynch says their response so far has been fine. But their losses carry "one more suggestion of the waning influence of the U.S."
- Good News For U.S.--So Far The Washington Post is cautiously optimistic. "Iraq's critical political transition is so far going as well as could be expected, both for the country and for the Obama administration," they write. "A government headed by either Mr. Maliki or Mr. Allawi would offer the Obama administration an opportunity to forge a vital strategic relationship with Iraq even as U.S. troops depart in the next two years." The U.S. should foster relationships with both men, but be careful to interfere in Iraqi sovereignty.