On December 15, Iraqis will vote in the third national election this year, this time for a parliament with a four-year term. What can we expect, given that Sunni Arab lists are participating, unlike in January’s election for the constituent assembly?
Some quick and rough estimates suggest something like the following, where the first number is my estimate for December and the second number was the result in January:
39%/48%– UIA (the main Shiite alliance)
18%/25.7– Kurdish alliance
11%/13.8– Iraqi List (Allawi)
20%/0– combined for the main Arab Sunni lists
I am assuming that there will be very minimal changes in each group’s voting preference. In other words, that there are not many swing voters, for instance between the UIA and Allawi’s list within the Shiite community. Some reports have suggested there could be, but count me as skeptical until shown reason to be otherwise.
If this is even close to accurate, then obviously the UIA will not be in as commanding a position to form a cabinet as it was after January’s election, but it will still be far larger than any other alliance.
I derive these estimates by an analysis of the turnout in groups of departments that are dominated by one ethno-sectarian group or another, in January and October. The assumption I make is that the October referendum turnout rates will be repeated without major change in December.
The graph below shows the comparison of turnout rates in January’s constituent assembly election and October’s constitutional referendum. The horizontal axis is turnout in January. The vertical axis is turnout in October, as a percentage of the January turnout (thus the October rate can be over 100% without there necessarily being anything untoward).
Click on the image for a larger version.
The closer a province (or, more properly, governorate) is to the diagonal, the less changed was the turnout between the two elections. It is notable that almost all the Shia-dominated provinces had modest declines, while the Kurdish provinces had almost no change, except for a small increase in Arbil.
For any province in which there was a no vote on the referendum of more than 5%, there is a number in parentheses indicating what that percentage was. Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between turnout increase and negative votes on the constitution: these are the provinces with large Arab Sunni populations. (I also included this number for Arbil, given that is is one of the few provinces lacking a large Arab Sunni population in which turnout was up. Even in Babil, by contrast, the small increase in turnout is probably mostly explained by the small no vote, i.e. by Arab Sunnis coming out to reject the constitution.)
It is quite striking how different the two provinces with the biggest negative votes are in their turnouts in both elections (something I noted in a previous post as well): Anbar had a large increase, but coming from a very low base (2% in January). Saladdin, on the other hand, was one of the few provinces where turnout was greater in October than the number registered in January. The different behavior of voters in these two provinces is attributable to some combination of different party leanings (perhaps the IIP, the one Arab Sunni party to have come out for the constitution right before the referendum, is stronger there) and, more importantly, guerrilla activity (which is greatest in Anbar).
Based on these turnout changes, I derived estimates of the likely contributions of each of the three main sectarian groups to the turnout, and the percentage of each group that voted for the main parties.
It is conventionally estimated that Shiites make up 60% of the population and Kurds and Arab Sunnis around 20% each (ignoring the numerous other minorities, the most important of which are the Turkomen).
Based on turnout in the provinces most dominated by each group, it appears that each group’s contribution to the January vote was as follows. (The number in parentheses here is the rough estimate of what percentage of each group voted.)
67% Shiite (68%)
28% Kurd (84%)
5% Arab Sunni (16%)
My figures work out to about a 61% total national turnout. (For Shiites, 68% turnout by a group representing 60% of the electorate yields Shiites delivering 41% of the total eligible vote; 41% of the potential voters is 68% of the actual vote). Actual national turnout was reported to be around 60%, so the numbers check out.
In October, the same calculations result in the following, again with the first number indicating the contribution of the group to the actual votes cast, and the number in parentheses indicating the estimated turnout of that group.
54% Shiite (61%)
27% Kurd (90%)
20% Arab Sunni (67%)
Notice how Kurds were represented about the same share in the two elections, because their turnout actually increased. Shiites turned out to be the least motivated group in October. Will that change in December? If it does, then my estimate of 39% for the UIA will be too low.
These calculations result in a total turnout estimate in the referendum at 68%, which is a few percentage points on the high side of what was reported.
In January, about 72% of Shiites appear to have voted for the United Iraqi Alliance and around 21% for the Iraqi List. Assuming those percentages do not change much, we get UIA at 39% in December and Iraqi Alliance at 11%.
An unknown factor is how much the addition of Muqtada Sadr to the UIA and the subtraction of Ahmed Chalabi will affect the UIA vote. Here I am assuming it is a wash, but if Sadr adds more than Chalabi takes away (which would be my guess), my estimate for the UIA will be too low.
Another change in the list lineup that could affect the results include the Kurdistan Islamic Union, which separated from the main Kurdish list. The KIU last ran separately in the Kurdistan regional elections of 2000 and won 20% of the vote. But it is unlikely to attract such a strong showing in all-Iraq elections. Even if it does, would it align for government-formation purposes with any bloc not joined by its fellow Kurds? It would seem not.
The Iraqi List may also outperform my estimate, at the expense of the main Arab Sunni lists, given that it has some Sunnis on its slate. But I would not expect it to gain a lot more than what my estimate says.
Well, let’s see how my good estimation capability is!