Iraq: Political chaos reigns supreme

by Ahmed Janabi

The fall of Baghdad to invading US-led forces in April 2003 marked the end of decades of one party rule in Iraq.

When the Iraqi Arab Baath Socialist party assumed power in 1968, a national alliance including the Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraqi Communist parties was formed.

In 1975, and according to the Baath party’s version of events, a coup was being arranged by the communists to assume control of the government.

But the communists denied the claims and accused the Baathists of fabricating the charges to deprive them of political representation and a role in the country.

Ultimately, the three parties fell out with each other and the alliance collapsed. Ever since, the ruling Baath party banned all other political representation.

Iraqi politicians fled the country and continued their work in exile.

Saddam falls, parties emerge

When the ruling Baath party led by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was removed from power in 2003 – effectively ending 35 years of uncontested rule over the country – Iraqi politicians hurried in their thousands to establish political parties.

Political parties and coalitions boomed in Iraq since April 2003

Groups that had been in self-imposed exile since the Baath party came to power in 1968, quickly returned to fill the political vacuum left by the former government’s quick demise and vie for power.

The first parties to emerge as early as April 2003, mere days after the 9 April fall of the capital to US forces, consisted of these exiled groups and parties that had been working at the grassroots level within the country.

Iraqis started to see banners on buildings in almost every street declaring party slogans and mottos and claiming the buildings as their headquarters.

Everyday Iraqis did not immediately identify with most of those new parties because most had been formed in exile for decades or they were formed on the spur of the moment without any promotional or public relations campaigns.

In Iraq’s last elections held in January 2005, 100 parties participated independently. Nine coalitions – each comprising an array of political parties – also ran.

Unofficial estimates suggest there are now more than 200 political parties in Iraq.

Small and marginal

Iraqi political analyst Liqa Makki, says most of those parties were established for certain interests.

“Large numbers of Iraqi parties are small and marginal. Some of them were formed by rich businessmen and tribal leaders eager for power,” he said.

Due to the lack of well-known popular political parties, the strategy of forming coalitions between parties was adopted to ensure maximum participation in the General Assembly.

“None of them managed to build merit or establish proper communication with Iraqi public,” Maki told

He points to the failure of a single party to win a substantial number of seats.

“The only way to ensure a satisfactory number of seats in the parliament [was] by allying with other parties.”

Lack of security

Jasim Marouf, an Iraqi independent politician, blames the boom in political parties on a lack of security and corruption.

Iraqis contend with daily bomb attacks on US and national forces

“Political parties are one of the techniques that the people in Iraq are using to protect themselves from potential dangers that might result from the lack of security,” Marouf said.

“Wealthy and well-known figures tend to establish parties to attract people and form a sort of fortress that acts like a shield to protect them.”

“Also, corruption is widely spread in Iraq, and many people tend to establish political parties hoping to get immunity that would protect them from prosecution,” Marouf said.   

Natural chaos

Despite the unending criticism of the current Iraqi political process, some Iraqi politicians and analysts believe the current chaos is natural in a country that has not experienced multi-party rule for decades.

Dhafir al-Ani, an Iraqi political analyst and former professor of political science in Baghdad University says he is optimistic over the political process in his country.

“The only thing Iraqi politicians need to put themselves on the right track is experience,” he said.

“And time will give them the needed skill.”

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The article as it appeared on the day it was published
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