Friday, January 30, 2009

Major political forces in Iraqi elections

A look at the main political blocs in Saturday's provincial elections in Iraq.


Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council - The largest Shiite political group in Iraq and senior partner in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Supreme Council, headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has close ties to Iran but also has developed links with Washington. The group could challenge al-Maliki for control of the government in national elections later this year. It favors greater autonomy in the Shiite heartland in southern Iraq, which is its power base.


Dawa Party - The main Dawa faction is led by al-Maliki. The party was founded in the 1950s and suffered widespread persecution under Saddam Hussein, with many members forced to flee the country. Dawa's popularity has improved after it backed U.S.-led offensives that helped reduce militia violence and uproot insurgents from areas around Baghdad.


Iraqi Islamic Party - The biggest Sunni political group and a coalition partner in al-Maliki's government. The group's leader, Tareq al-Hashemi, is one of Iraq's two vice presidents. The party gained prominence as one of the few active Sunni political factions in 2005 provincial elections that were widely boycotted by most Sunni parties and voters.


Awakening Councils - The Sunni tribes that rose up - with American encouragement and aid - against al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents beginning in 2006 in the western Anbar province. Their revolt is considered one of the turning points of the war. The tribal leaders now seek to move into politics.


Al-Sadr Movement - A Shiite political-militia network led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The group's influence has waned after losing clashes with U.S. and Iraqi forces last year, but al-Sadr still holds sway in Shiite political affairs. He is in Iran to pursue religious studies and avoid possible arrest.



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