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Iraq: Politics
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Politics


Although Shia leader Ayatollah Sistani had opposed the formation of political organizations, he approved the formation of a Shia-dominated coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, to contest the parliamentary elections of January 2005. In the early post–Saddam Hussein years, the two major formal Shia parties were the Supreme Council for the

Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) and Islamic Dawa (known as Dawa). SCIRI maintains close ties in Iran, commands a militia force of 10,000, and seeks a strong political role for the Islamic clergy. Since its return from exile in Iran in 2003, SCIRI has projected a more pluralistic image in a successful effort to broaden its support. It has supported the U.S. presence in Iraq and the 2005 parliamentary elections. Dawa began in 1958 as an Islamic revolutionary party, existed in exile during the Hussein regime, and emerged as an advocate of Islamic reform and modernization of religious institutions. In the parliamentary elections of January 2005, the United Iraqi Alliance gained 140 of the 275 seats contested, and Dawa leader Ibrahim al Jafari was named prime minister of the transitional government. In the parliamentary elections of December 2005, influential radical Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr brought his faction into the United Iraqi Alliance, which meanwhile lost the backing of Sistani and the participation of an important third party, the Iraqi National Congress. In those elections, the alliance lost 12 seats compared with January 2005. Of the alliance’s constituent parties, in 2006 SCIRI held 36 seats in the Council of Representatives; the Sadr Party, 28; the Islamic Virtue Party, 15; and Dawa, 13. Nevertheless, Dawa leader Nouri al Maliki was a compromise appointment as prime minister of the first permanent government.

Iraq’s Kurds are represented by two major parties, which since 2003 have cooperated in the government of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Both parties have supported the U.S. presence in Iraq and played important roles in interim governments. The secular, nationalist Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the larger of the two parties and held one of two vice presidencies in the Interim Iraqi Government. Founded by the main Kurdish tribe, the Barzanis, the KDP has established good relations with the Turkish government. The Popular Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, also has a secular nationalist agenda and represents Kurds closest to the Iran border. In the parliamentary elections of January 2005, the Kurdish alliance of the two parties gained 75 seats, second to the United Iraqi Alliance. In the elections of December 2005, the alliance lost 22 seats but still held the second largest block in the Council of Representatives.

Several nonsectarian parties have played important roles in Iraqi politics since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmed Chalabi, is a coalition with a large militia and strong ties in the southern Shia community, although Chalabi’s influence in the government waned significantly after 2003. The INC, which advocates economic privatization and a secular government, held 13 seats in the transitional parliament as part of the United Iraqi Alliance. Iraqi National Accord (al Wilfaq) is led by Ayad Allawi, who was prime minister of the Interim Iraqi Government and remained an influential opposition figure in the permanent government. Despite Allawi’s prominence and U.S. backing, the party fared poorly in the December 2005 elections. The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) had its greatest influence in the 1960s, then substantially changed its agenda during the 1990s. Since 2003 the ICP has been represented in interim governments and maintains some support among secular Shias and Sunnis.

The largest official Sunni party is the Iraqi Islamic Party, whose leader Tariq al Hashimi was elected vice president in the first permanent government. That party is the foundation of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, which gained 44 seats in the parliamentary elections of December 2005. The Muslim Scholars’ Association, formed in 2004, represents the senior Islamic scholars who set religious policy for the Sunni community. The association has strongly opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq and successfully called for a boycott of the January 2005 parliamentary elections. Although the association also worked with Shia organizations for reconciliation of individual issues, on overall policy it diverged from the position of the Iraqi Accord Front, which participated actively in reconciliation talks in 2005 and 2006. In mid-2006, the kidnapping of a Sunni member of parliament incited a boycott of sessions by representatives of the front. The senior Sunni politician in Iraq, former foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, endorsed the new government and urged Sunni participation. Several smaller parties represent the Assyrian and Turkmen ethnic minorities.

Data as of August 2006

Last Updated: August 2006

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iraq was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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