The Future of Iraq Following the 12th May 2018 Iraqi Parliamentary Elections

2 years agoANALYSIS

By Editorial Staff

On the 30th June 2018, the Kurdistan Conflict and Crisis Research Center organized a roundtable for a number of political science and Shia community experts. The participants of the Seminar were;

-Dr Abid Rasoul (Dean of the School of Political Science University of Sulaimani and Political Science lecturer) discussed the future of law and constitution in Iraq following the manual recounting of the ballots and the constitutional void in Iraq after the current Iraqi parliament term ended. 
-Assistant Professor Omed Rafiq (head of the 'Future Centre' and political science lecturer) discussed the political and security concerns associated with a constitutional void in Iraq and the delay in forming a government as a result of issues associated with Iraq's disputed territories.  
- Mr Yasin Taha, (Masters in Shi'a Studies and the history of the community) discussed the internal Shi'a politics and the new Iraqi government. 
-Dr Jalal Mustafa (Head of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Sulaimani) discussed the  Sunni powers in Iraq and their future participation in the Iraqi political process. 

Furthermore, all the speakers discussed more extensive questions such as: What does the future hold following the Iraqi election results?; Will the election results change the balance of power in Iraq?; What do the election results mean for the relationship between the Kurds, Sunni's and Shi'a in Iraq? How will the constitutional void, regarding the end of the current parliamentary be addressed?; And, what will result from the attempts that are trying to pass new laws regarding the election results through a parliament who's legal term has ended? 
Section 1
Initially, we must ask will the process of reviewing the Iraqi election results be delayed? If so, this will postpone the first sitting of the new Iraqi Parliament and by consequence delay the process of government formation. In 2005, 2010 and 2014 the government formation processes in Iraq were all delayed, and as a result, the Iraqi Federal Court had to intervene to answer the question of whether or not Parliament could vote to extend its term. Hence, there were numerous attempts in previous years to continue the respective parliamentary terms until the different sides reached an agreement. However, in all cases, the Iraqi Federal Court relied on Article 56 of the Iraqi Constitution to conclude that there is no legality in such an act and therefore cannot occur. Following the 2018 election, the Iraqi Parliament has passed its four-year legal term, and the Iraqi Federal Court has previously established that an extension of the parliamentary term is illegal. So, the predicament that this presents is the question of whether or not Iraqi is not in a constitutional vacuum? 
There are various opinions on this question. One such view is that given that a constitutional void did not occur in the same circumstances in the previous election then it is possible that the current situation will also not cause a legal vacuum. This view leads to the question of how is a constitutional vacuum created? 
A constitutional vacuum occurs where there exists a legal article within a given constitution which obliges state institutions to conduct a specific action(s) at a particular time and place, but those state institutions do not perform it. For example, the Iraqi constitutions limit parliamentary terms to four years and require a newly elected parliament to convene following the expiration of the old one. When its new parliament is unable to meet, then there is a constitutional vacuum within Iraq.  
The next question that arises from the previous point does a constitutional vacuum cause a problem? For Iraq, it doesn't because the last three elections have demonstrated that of the three branches of the state it has always been the legislative branch of government that has faced a constitutional vacuum. In the instance where parliament cannot convene it is only lawmaking that stops the other branches of government continue to function.  For example, even without legislative support, the executive branch can continue its work as a caretaker government until parliament convenes and a new executive branch can form. However, the caretaker government will function without all of its sovereign powers, for instance, it will be unable to dissolve parliament as the parliamentary term has already expired. In the same manner, the judicial branch of state also continues to function. Hence, a constitutional vacuum that effects the legislative branch of government alone does not cause significant issues for the governance process as a whole. 
Nevertheless, even though a constitutional vacuum does not cause problems for governance, it is crucial to contextualise such a void into Iraq's unique state of politics.  Iraq has only recently re-emerged from a protracted conflict against the Islamic State and escaped from the grips of ethic and sectarian struggles. When taking this into account, it becomes clearer that a constitutional vacuum in the legislative branch of government in this context has the potential to cause immense problems for the country. An example of such a problem is if the government wishes to announce a state of emergency. The declaration of a state of emergency in Iraq requires the backing of parliament. Where parliament does not exist the government no longer has this option and not having this option in today's circumstances in Iraq can cause immense problems for the country's leaders.  
Another Question that arises is will the results of the 2018 election be confirmed avoiding the scenarios mentioned above? The results of the 2018 Iraqi election will only be confirmed once they have gone through the reviewing process. So, when will the results go through the reviewing process? Once there is a complaint or comment on specific election result then the results must go through a reviewing process. In Iraqi, there are two ways in which Iraqi election results get reviews. 
1) If the political sides have a complaint about the election results, it is forwarded to Iraq's Election Commision. If the parties are unhappy with the decision given by the Iraqi Electoral Commision on the complaint, then the case and judgment issued by the Electoral Commission are reviewed by Iraq's Election Legal Council. 
2) In the case that Iraq's Election Legal Council is unable to reach a final judgement on the issue or the view that it produced is not to the liking of the parties, then the concerned parties can take the case to Iraq's Supreme Court. 
To date, the 2018 Iraqi poll has produced 1882 complaints of which 1221 of them are severe and require a final decision to stop the Iraqi political process from stalling. It the final stage of the review process Iraq's Supreme Court will make the final decision on each of the cases. Once the court reaches its conclusion, the new parliament will have fifteen days to conduct their first meeting. 
In Iraq, there is also another complaint proceeding regarding election results which is more problematic and could further delay the announcement of the 2018 final election results. This process occurs when the complaint is regarding Iraq's Election commision and not another party.  It is the case following the 2018 elections that while there are many complaints from one party about another, for example, Gorran complaining that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan used fraud in the election, there are also some complaints about Iraq's Election Commision. These complaints complicate the process as  Iraq's Election Commision has a constitutional role in settling electoral disagreements. Iraq's answered these complaints by allowing the legislative and the executive branches of government to interfere in the complaint process, which is unlawful. The legislative and Executive branch replaced Iraq's Electoral Commission with a legal committee to oversee the reviewing process. 
What then is the legal solution when there is a complaint against Iraq's Electoral Commission?  The answer is straightforward when Iraq's Electoral Commision is under suspicion of fraud because such a move would constitute a crime and when a crime is committed it is the job of Iraq's investigative court to investigate the issue. Hence, it was the job of Iraq's investigative court to decide whether Iraq's Electoral Commision committed fraud or not. However, this process was not followed in Iraq instead the country united the council of commissioners and a group of judges and used them to replace Iraq's Electoral Commision. These legal errors will work to cause further delays to the announcement of the final election results and completely stall the legislative branch of government and to some extent the executive. Taking these problems into account, we can argue that where previous government formation processes in Iraq took months the government formation process from the 2018 poll will likely take a year or even longer.  
With this in mind, we are forced to ask again can parliament extend its mandated term? In truth, there is not a clear answer to this question as the four previous judgements on the issue in 2005,2010, 2014 all made clear that the parliamentary term is for four years and that there is no provision for an extension.  However, the Iraqi parliament could have taken a risk and have voted to extend its term before its term had expired. If there was cross-party agreement on the extension and no side filed a legal case against the decision, there would have been no need for the decision to have been overturned by the courts. For example, if parliamentarians voted to extend their term by a year and no one filed a case against the decision in courts parliament could have continued its work for a year. 
Section 2
What will the risks and fallout of the 2018 election result recount be for the disputed territories and the Kurds? 
There was much debate surrounding the third modification of Iraq's election law, in particular, is the review or recount of the 2018 election result legal? The decision of Iraq's Supreme Court made sure that all the ballot boxes that had complaints against them would be recounted.  As a start, the decision made sure that at the beginning of July the votes in the Kurdistan region, Moel, Kirkuk and Anbar would face a recount. Once this recount is complete other provinces in Iraq would follow suit. However, the sides remain unhappy with the decision of Iraq's Supreme Court to only conduct a recount on the ballot boxes that have complaints filed against them. In the example of the Kurdistan Region, the political sides have filed objections against 3350 ballot boxes out of 3500. Hence, the Gorran movement, Islamic Group of Kurdistan and the Islamic Union of Kurdistan have registered a new case at Iraq's Supreme Court appealing against the court's decision.  Their complaint is on the basis that their first request was not for a recount of the ballot boxes that had complaints against them but for a recount of all the ballot boxes. 
When Iraq's supreme court made its decision, those parties mentioned in the previous paragraph believed they had achieved immense success. However, on reading the decision more closely, they quickly realised that the court had decided not to order a full recount of the election results but just the ballots which have complaints against them those parties were unhappy and began their criticisms once again. 
So, what are the problems that may arise when recounting the votes? 
There are numerous problems which are; 
1) After the recount ordered by the Iraqi Supreme Court, there will be no more room for formal complaints against whatever result are published. 
2) There will be a loss of trust between the different political sides, in particular after some individuals surrounded ballot stations and tampered with the ballot boxes of which on one occasion they burned some ballot boxes in Baghdad
3) The efforts by parliamentarians in the Iraqi parliament to have a recount of the elections has worked to create suspicion in the election process.  
4) The Iraqi Supreme Court has acted with a political motive in that it has worked to keep all sides happy. To keep the 'election winners' content, it has allowed the 'special status' votes in the election to stand while at the same time trying to keep the 'election losers' happy by ordering a manual recount of the votes. The problem here is that it is not for the Supreme Court to play a political role and by nature must remain apolitical. 
As a result of the above problems some difficulties now threaten the future of Iraq. These are;
1) Election turnout may be significantly reduced in future as citizens of Iraq have become disenfranchised with the whole election process. 
2) The mandate that the next Iraqi government will hold will be weak given the shadow of the 2018 election results will be hanging over it. 
3) Iraq's state institutions will face a great breakdown because the current crisis surrounding the 2018 Iraqi election will question their very foundations. In reality, elections should work to strengthen state institutions, but in Iraq's case, it has only weakened them. Moreover, the political sides in Iraq do not want to accept the recount results, and instead, they continue to negotiate on forming the next government using the first set of results as the basis.  
4) The delay in forming the next Iraqi government will have a profound income in the provision of services across the country. This delay will be of particular importance if there is no agreement on government formation by the time the 2019 Iraqi budget is due. In this case, the caretaker government will decide the 2019 budget without any parliamentary oversight. A unilateral decision on a national budget threatens to increase the possibility of institutional, and military interference in the process. Such an eventuality is more likely in this scenario as the constitution stipulates that a caretaker government can only serve for 30 days. 

What effect will the election recount and the delay in government formation have on Iraq's disputed territories? 
Today the disputed territories are plagued with insecurity as a result of government inaction on stabilising the security situation in those areas. Even though the Kurds have no political or military control over Kirkuk, the initial results gave the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan six seats in the province. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan feels threatened by a possible recount in the city as a result of actions by the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Turkoman parties which have surrounded the recount stations. In the eyes, if the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan these actions present a threat to the integrity of the recount. If the Kurdish parties suffer as a result of a recount, then the security situation in the province could deteriorate further. 

Section 3
Divisions amongst the Shi'ite factions and its impact on the election results and the future of Iraq

If we take into account the state of the Iraqi Shi'a community in the 2018 elections, it is clear that there is no longer a united national Shi'a alliance in Iraq to represent and defend the interests of the Shi'a community in Iraq. In previous Iraqi elections, there has always been a Shi'a list, such as the 'State of Law', that has managed to secure over 100 seats for the Shi'a community.  In this election, the highest number of votes a single Shi'a list managed to obtain was 16.5% (based on the initial count). Hence, there is no hope that a united Shi'a list will re-emerge anytime soon. 
In the past Shi'a lists relied on sectarian slogans that talked of threats against the Shi'a community was able to unite the Shi'a community into one electoral list. However, the current situation is far different from that of previous years as personal interests have become more significant. We must then ask will these prioritising of own interests bring about a new form of politics in Iraq that differs from ethnic and sectarian loyalties? 
So far these methods have only existed in slogan alone, in particular, by the  Sairoon Alliance.  However, other Shi'a sides are resisting these attempts as they are concerns that such moves will promote regionalism. Looking at the current alliances within Iraq's Shi'a communities goes someway to understanding how alliance building can promote Shi'a regionalism. For example, today Abadi has allied with the Popular Mobilization forces (PMF) while Hakim and Alawi have allied together. Previously, Sadir Movement and Hakim had allied together, but later that became Sadir Movement and the (PMF). Today there is a threat of withdrawal by the al-Fath bloc after Hadi al-Ameri claimed that they were not in an alliance instead they only had a memorandum of understanding. 
Regional instability causes the formation of these alliances, in particular when neighbouring states put pressure on respective sides to come together in an agreement. For example, The Sadir Movement and PMF  (Sairuun and al-Fatih block) as these sides have the potential to come into conflict with one another as each party has a distinct militia force. Moreover, the Fatah Alliance is made up of former members of the Idir block, in particular, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq. This party gained enormous success by increasing its parliamentary seats from one in 2014 to fifteen within the Fatah alliance in 2018. Their success has resulted in United States frustration, and as a result, the United States has become engaged with reviewing the election results. 
At the moment, the Fatah alliance is made up of two parties; the Badr Organisation, which has 22 parliamentary seats and  Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq which has 15 seats and both parties are anti-American. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq lacks in political experience and therefore had taken part in the Fatah Alliance. Even though the party is the oldest, it has only been able to secure three seats by female quota rules. The Council's leader Shaikh Humam Hamoudi who is also a vice-chair of parliament and famous Iraqi policial failed to gain enough seats to secure a parliamentary seat for himself.  Hence, amongst Iraq's Shi'a alliances there is a withdrawal of civilian politicians in the political process. In their place, the military wings of the coalitions are gaining seats. 
This union shocked Shi'a public opinion and questions arose as to how Sadr and Fatah reached an agreement to ally?  In particular, after the burning of ballot boxes in Baghdad when the militia of Saraya al-Salam and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq almost came to blows. These two forces were previously united, and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq was a part of the Sadr Organisation. As a result, relations between the two groups have become sensitive; both are tipped to replace the Sadr organisation. In particular, Qais Khazali and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq believe themselves successors to Mohammed Sadiq Sadr (the father of Muqtada Sadr). In their political literature, speeches, culture,    Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq present themselves as the rightful successor of Mohammed Sadiq Sadr as Muqtada al Sadr, his son has departed from his ideology. 
They may be correct in their belief as in recent years Muqtada Sadr has fallen under the influence of pragmatism and departed from his father's school of thought. If we observe the history of all those groups and organisations that use violence, we see that they originate from the Mohammed Bakir Sadir school. Examples of these groups are Fazila, Nijbas, and Asa'ib or Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Shahada who treat Muqtada Sadr's father as holy and implement his teachings. The reason being that of the 52 sermons given by Mohammed Bakir Sadir in his Friday 'Qutbas' most were populist and emotive. Moreover, they were designed to prepare his followers for an inevitable conflict with his sermons being staunchly anti-Saudi Arabian. Today his son Muqtada al-Sadr is doing the reverse of his father's sermons and opening up friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. It has become a matter of embarrassment that whenever Muqtada al-Sadr takes another step towards closer ties with Saudi Arabia Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq releases a video of one of his father's sermons in which the topics of discussion are the brutality of Wahabism and al-Saud and the need for the Shi'a sect to rescue Islam. 
Hence, in an attempt to avert conflict between the two sides there has been external pressure on them, in particular from the Iranians, to bring the two together.  In essence, the stalemate between the Shia lists is as a result of the multiple demands on the post of Iraq Prime Minister. However, to date, none of the alliances has discussed the issue of who should get the post of Prime Minister. Even after the formation of the partnership between Sadr and Fatah and Sadir and Abadi a Kuwaiti Journalist asks Muqtada Sadr who will be the next Iraqi Prime Minister will be? To which Muqtada al Sadr replied that it not yet clear. 
Here the question arises, What are the legal mechanisms to appoint an Iraqi Prime Minister? As a result of the immense powers of the post of Prime Minister all the alliances in Iraq circuit around this post. However, constitutionally these powers have been awarded to the Head of the Council of Ministers as there is no Prime Ministerial post in the Iraqi constitution. The constitution designs these powers to be practised by the council together rather than unilaterally by its head. However, in practice since the premiership of Nuri al-Maliki, these powers have been exercised by the head of the Council of Ministers unilaterally. This exercise in unilateral power wielding has since become a legal custom and the status quo in Iraq. It is for this reason that Abadi can make court decisions. His ability to make these unilateral decisions comes from the custom set in motion by Nuri al-Maliki. 
It won't be easy for a national alliance reform in the same manner as it had done before. Despite this, Iran's effort, which has some support from the United States, is to unite those forces which have gained the most votes in a governing coalition. Iran and the United States both understand the importance of  Muqtada al-Sadr not getting sidelined from the formation of the next Iraqi government for the following reasons; 
1) Muqtada al-Sadr has a large, loyal support base and as a result, can organise protests and surround the Green Zone in Baghdad threatening the political stability of any future government. For example, Sadr city is a popular area in Baghdad for supporters of Muqtada al-Sar. It houses Three million people and three million light arms. 
2) Muqtada al-Sadr is the leader of the Mahdi Army which is one of the most organised and equipt Shi'a armies in Iraq. His armed forces are currently engaged in fighting in Samara, Karbala and the outskirts of Baghdad. Hence, whenever Muqtada al-Sadr feels disillusioned with the political process, he has the options of causing largescale civil or military disturbances. 
While they understand the importance of Muqtada al-Sadr inclusion in the government formation process Iran doesn't want him to have control over the process, most notably of who becomes Head of the Council of Ministers. For instance, Iran wants Muqtada al-Sadr to control some service and sovereign ministerial portfolios. At the same time, Muqtada al-Sadr seems willing for the al-Saairun alliance to not hold the post of Head of the Council of Ministers; however, he seems to be holding this back for the negotiating table to get as many concessions with it as possible. 
Hence, the Shi'a streets of Iraq have become surprised at the process of alliance formation in this election. The different shape of alliance formation, as opposed to previous elections, boils down to the fact that numerous Shi'a groups are competing for the post of Head of the Council of Ministers and that there is no precise legal mechanism to identify a candidate following elections. Specifically will the individual who attains the post be from the Dawa party or not? And what is the weight of the position of Head of the Council of Ministers on the negotiating table? 
Previously, the Sadrists had proposed that if the job of the Head of the Council of Ministers does not go to the al-Saairun alliance or if it is given once again to Abadi then it should be as per the constitution and not the adopted 'Prime Minister' post. Moreover, they wanted the rules that govern that position to be set by themselves. In other words for the postholder to become a puppet of the al-Saairun alliance.
Another question that arises here is can Abadi go into a governing forming process with the al-Saairun alliance? The answer is negative as Abadi would need prior permission from his international backers namely the United States and Iran. This permission would be hard to gain as both Iran, and the United States view Muqtada al-Sadr as an unreliable political character who is quick to change his political position when popular opinion demands it. What is more, given the Americans and the Iranians have this red flag on Muqtada al-Sadr any move by Abadi to build closer ties with him requires the prior approval of these states. Further complicating matters is the Sadrists believe the United States to be foreign occupiers and have committed themselves to work for the complete removal of United States forces from Iraqi territory, meaning that the Sadrists will, in turn, find it politically harming to negotiate or work with the United States. The Sadrists are also calling for Iranian influence to end in Iraq. 
Hence, the question arises how can an Iraqi 'Prime Minister' be appointed that believes the United States to be an occupying power and Iran to be a seeker of political influence in Iraq? More importantly, how can the post holder be successful when one cannot take a political decision cannot in Iraq without the United States or Iranian support? While numerous names have been proposed for the post of Head of the Council of Representatives (Prime Minister), it is still not clear how much weight this position will have in negotiations. The political side that receives this position will likely not be able to negotiate for more government positions. The reason being that there are only 21 ministerial portfolios available in the Iraqi cabinet. If we take into account all the Shi'a, Kurdish and Sunni sides competing for these positions then it becomes clear that the supply of posts does not fit with the demand. The next question becomes who has enough support to gain the post of Head of the Council of Representatives? The preliminary election results have revealed that Abadi no longer has the backing alone to regain the position. In the 2018 election, he was only able to muster  59,000 votes out of 6 million voters in Baghdad putting his list third behind the al-Saairun alliance and the Fatah Block. For Abadi to regain the position he will require the support of one of the stronger party's; however, those lists are not willing to sacrifice their share of government portfolios to support Abadi's reinstatement.  Even though, Abadi remains the favoured person to regain the post of Head of the Council of Ministers he still has many obstacles to overcome. 
In general, Abadi's reinstatement is dependent on the following;
1) A successful manual recount of the 2018 election results
2) The agreement and support of regional states for his reappointment
3) One of the larger party's to support his reappointment and support him throughout the future government.
Lastly, the questions that remain without answers are the following;
-Is Abadi willing to leave the Dawa Party to regain the post of head of the Council of Ministers? 
- Will Abadi be ready to be the General Secretary of the Council of Ministers no longer?
- Will Abadi be prepared to serve as the Head of the Council of Ministers if the Sadrists rewrite the rulebooks for the Council of Ministers? 

Who else from the al-Saairun alliance is a potential candidate for the Head of the Council of Ministers?
In theory, one cannot categorise the al-Saairun alliance as a sectarian alliance as in includes the Iraqi communist party and civilian individuals from across the sectarian divide. However, in practice, the party won 54 seats of which Muqtada al-Sadr's Integrity Party won 50, The Communist party won three, and the civilian independents won one. Hence, the alliance is heavily influenced and under the control of Muqtada al-Sadr. Having said this the individuals that won the seats from the al-Saairun Alliance are not from its leadership. The head of the al-Saairun list, Dr Hussain al-Aquly, was not even invited to the meetings which decided the electoral alliance and to date, Dr Hussain al-Aquly has not held a press conference but has only relied on statements every now again to get his opinion across. 
Furthermore, in recent weeks pressure has been building for the Communist Party to withdraw from the al-Saairun alliance after Muqtada al-Sadr formed a coalition with the Fatah Block. As a result of the agreement, the Communist Party no longer felt that they had a place within the al-Saairun Alliance and that they should consequently withdraw. However, a valid observation shows that their withdrawal from the alliance with three seats will not impact on the outcome of the election as the al-Saairun Alliance will remain the most significant block with 50 seats. The coalition will remain under the control of Muqtada al-Sadr because the Sadrists are part of an organisation in which decision making relies on the word and orders of Muqtada al-Sadr rather than on internal protocols, councils or politburos. The only feature of the organisation that represents collective decision making is that Muqtada al-Sadr receives advice from a group of individuals which the organisation call the tier one leadership group. However, the individuals within this group are there as the will of Muqtada al-Sadr and therefore if he so wishes he can remove them at will.  

Section 4
The State of Iraq's Sunni community following the 2018 election.
It is difficult to discuss the representation of the Sunni community in Iraq after the Iraqi elections of 2018. Where in previous years neighbouring states have worked to unite Iraq's Sunni community today owing to the grand Iranian project their attempts have failed. The Iraqi Sunni population is currently in its most fractures and divided state since 2003. Five alliances generally represent the Sunnis in Iraq of which the coalition of Khalid Obedi is most prominent.  Khalid Obedi's coalition differs from other Sunni partnerships because  Khalid Obedi often identifies himself as Iraqi rather than Sunni. With this, he has been able to join the Ner list a Shia/Abadi supported list in the town Moel and achieve the highest number of Sunni votes. 
At the same time, the list of leading and tested Suuni politician Osama Nujafi 'Al-Qarar' is in constant withdrawal. The Kurdish and the Shi'a politicians do not view Nujefi as a favourable character as he has continuously been a source of friction between the different ethnic and sectarian sides. Other lists such as ' We Are Anbar' has only achieved six seats in Anbar Province. However, it is important to note that the accusations of fraud are loudest in Anbar province. The Baghdad alliance is another Sunni list only managing to gain four seats of which one seat was by a Kurd (Ala Talabani).  However, if the question is what the state of the Sunni community is in Iraq, this can be outlined in a few points. 
1) The Sunni community is divided: This division is mostly geographic as there are distinct lists based in Baghdad (Baghdad Alliance), in Diyala (Diyala is our Identity), and in Anbar (Anbar is our Identity). Hence, they are divided between the different Iraqi provinces rather than a unified electoral list throughout Iraq that would boost their political strength in the country. 
2) Disagreements amongst Sunni politicians: There are continued disagreements and rivalries amongst Sunni politicians and often reject one another's projects and proposals.  
3) Internal displacement of the Sunni community: The Sunni population has become widely displaced internally as a result of recent conflicts. This phenomenon has been feeding into the divisions amongst the community. 
4) The rise of terrorism and terrorist activities within the Sunni regions: Terrorism and terrorist activity are on the increase in the Sunni areas in particular in Anbar and Diyala provinces as a result of the presence of the Shi'a Popular Mobilization Forces in those areas.  
Furthermore, in the election of the 12th May 2018, two fundamental elements point to a further diluting of the Sunni role in the future of Iraq.  These are;
1) The formation of Sunni electoral lists that also incorporate Kurdish and Shia candidates. While this is a positive development away from sectarian and ethnic politics, it also reveals the divided state of Sunni politics in the country and their unwillingness to work together.
2) The 2018 election has for the first time seen Arab lists such as the Ner list competing for votes in Kurdish provinces and vice versa traditional and new Kurdish parties competing for votes in Sunni Arab areas. These have all worked to dilute the Sunni vote share. 
To what extent will the success of Muqtada al-Sadr impact the relations between the Shia and Sunni communities? 
In recent years Muqtada Sadr has created substantial ties with Sunni country's in the region, in particular, Saudi Arabia and these ties could work to better relations between Iraq's Shia and Sunni communities. However, Muqtada al-Sadr is not a reliable politician, has a weak political culture and is emotionally motivated. Moreover, the reality that Muqtada al Sadr's support base is Shi'a populism his followers may not give him the space to build relations with the Sunni community. The reason for this reluctance from the Shia community is that history shows them that whenever their community has faced suppression in the past, it has been at the hand of the Sunni community. This reality has translated into Muqtada al-Sadr's inability to protect and assist the Sunni community. 

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