The government run National Media Center (NMC) released another public opinion poll recently, this time asking 4,500 Iraqis on their preference for parties and their views on federalism. The results closely follow an October 2008 survey conducted by the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies reported on before. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law Coalition got the most responses, while there was little support for federal regions outside of Kurdistan.
Prime Minister Maliki has fashioned himself into the most popular Iraqi politician, however two former leaders of Iraq closely follow him. The NMC questionnaire found Prime Minister Maliki’s Coalition of the State of Law had the most support at 23%, followed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List 12.6%, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) 11.4%, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party 11.3%, the Iraqi Accordance Front 4.5%, and the Iraqi National Dialogue Front 3.6%. When asked whom they wanted as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came in first at 23%, Allawi was second 17.7%, and Jaafari third 10%. It’s been widely reported that Maliki is popular with the Iraqi public because of his offensives against the Sadrists in Basra, Sadr City and Maysan along with his increasing use of nationalism. Allawi’s and Jaafari parties however, have hardly been mentioned in the English language reporting on Iraq. Allawi was the interim prime minister after the Coalition Provisional Authority returned sovereignty to Iraq in 2004. His Iraqi National List is a secular and nationalist one. Other Iraqi polls have found growing support for just such parties. Jaafari was the Prime Minister after the 2005 elections. He was originally one of the leaders of the Dawa party, but was replaced by Maliki in 2007 after coming under increasing criticism for the country’s decent into sectarian war in 2006. In June 2008 he announced that he was leaving Dawa to form the National Reform Party made up of his wing of the Dawa, independent Shiites, and some Sadrists. Jaafari has been working with the loosely organized opposition since then consisting of the Sadr Bloc, the Fadhila Party, the National Dialogue Front, and Allawi’s Iraqi National List.
The second half of the National Media Center poll asked Iraqis about their views on federalism. 72% rejected the idea. As would be expected, 78% of Kurds supported it as they have the Kurdistan Regional Government. 80% were opposed to the partition of the country, 80% were against autonomy for Basra, while 94% of those surveyed within Basra were against turning it into a federal region.
These results were very similar to an October 2008 survey conducted by the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies. In that poll Maliki again was the most popular politician at 17.2%, followed by Allawi 16.7%, and Jaafari 7.9%. When asked what political party they would vote for Maliki’s Dawa Party came out on top 14.7%, and the Iraqi National List was second 13.3%. Don’t know 8.5% and no answer 7.4% were the next results, followed by the two Kurdish parties, and then Jaafari’s at 4.3%. Likewise, there were few in favor of federalism with 69.9% saying they wanted a strong central government, with only 17.7% saying they would prefer more power in the provinces. 70.0% said they were against forming another regional government outside of Kurdistan.
It should be noted that while these two polls show a realignment in preferences, and the collapse of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, they are both national polls. They may not transfer directly to the provincial elections where parties need organization and money to launch campaigns across the governorates to gain enough votes to win seats on the provincial councils. While its often been repeated that over 14,000 candidates are running in the upcoming election, few of these newcomers can compete with the Supreme Council’s two satellite TV channels, dozens of local channels and newspapers, five women’s organization, three student groups, and over 1,000 offices in the south. Maliki has shored up his popularity by forming Tribal Support Councils across Iraq. Allawi and Jaafari may not have the resources to match these two. What they do have going for them is the rising popularity of secularism and nationalism, and resentment against the poor governing by the ruling parties. How things turn out will soon be known when voting begins at the end of January.
Below are the results of the National Media Center and Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies polls.
National Media Center January 2009 Poll
What party would you vote for?
State of Law Coalition 23%
Iraqi National List 12.6%
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council 11.4%
National Reform Party 11.3%
Iraqi Accordance Front 4.5%
Iraqi National Dialogue Front 3.6%
Who would be the best prime minister?
Nouri al-Maliki 23%
Iyad Allawi 17.7%
Ibrahim al-Jaafari 10%
Ideas on federalism
Kurds in favor of 78%
Opposed to partition of country 80%
Opposed to autonomy for Basra 80%
Basrans opposed to autonomy for the province 94%
Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies October 2008 Poll
Which one of the following person could make the most positive change in country?
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki 17.2%
Former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi 16.7%
Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari7.9%
President of Kurdish Regional Government Masooud Barzani 6.3%
President Jalal Talabani 4.3%
Don’t know 4.2%
Moqtada al-Sadr 3.8%
Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi 3.6%
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi 3.6%
Iraqi National Dialogue Front head Saleh al-Mutlaq 2.9%
Head of Anbar Awakening Council Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha 2.2%
Deputy Prime Minister Barhem Salih 1.9%
Prime Minister of Kurdish Regional Government Neachirevan Barzani 0.9%
Kusart Ali 0.7%
Ummah Iraqi Party Mithal al-Alusi 0.7%
Assyrian Democratic Movement Younadim Kanah 0.5%
Iraqi National Congress Ahmed al-Chalabi 0.5%
Iraqi National List Ayad Jamal al-Deen 0.5%
General Council for the People of Iraq Adnan al-Dulaimi 0.4%
Iraqi National Dialogue Council Khalaf al-Ulayyan 0.4%
Association of Muslim Scholars Harith al-Dhari 0.4%
Former speaker of parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani 0.3%
Who will you vote for in next election?
Iraqi National List 13.3%
Don’t know 8.5%
No answer 7.4%
Kurdistan Democratic Party 7.2%
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan 6.4%
National Reform Party 4.3%
Sadr Movement 4.1%
Islamic Party of Iraq 3.4%
Ummah Iraqi Party 2.5%
Anbar Awakening Council 2.4%
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council 2.4%
Iraqi National Dialogue Front 2.4%
Iraqi National Dialogue Council 0.9%
Islamic Dawa Party-Iraq 0.6%
Iraqi National Congress 0.4%
Agence France Presse, “Iraqi PM Calls for Strong Central Government,” 1/22/09
- “Iraqi PM’s Allies On Course To Win Provincial Elections – Poll,” 1/21/09
Associated Press, “Six parliamentary factions to coordinate efforts in Iraqi parliament, lawmakers say,” 6/8/08
Daniel, Trenton, “Iraqi candidates stumping for Jan. 31 provincial elections,” McClatchy Newspapers, 1/23/09
Iraq Centre For Research & Strategic Studies, “Public Opinion Survey in Iraq; The Security & Political Situation in Iraq,” October 2008
Hardy, Roger, “Iraq conflict thwarts PM Jaafari,” BBC, 4/21/06
Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Mon: Australian Troops to Depart,” IraqSlogger.com, 6/1/08
Shadid, Anthony, “Despite Discontent and Fragmentation, Islamic Parties Dominate,” Washington Post, 1/19/09