Shake The Sheets

So: results of the provincial elections won’t be in for I guess about a week. Today’s reports are filled with quotes from hopeful Iraqis. Unlike the two previous rounds of voting, there appears to be greater reasons for optimism in the sense that entrenched sectarian imbalances may tip, or even be upended entirely. I’d recommend reading Musings On Iraq for information on the provincials and their underlying dynamics, as I’ve been relying on it to get me up to speed.

Beyond the elections themselves loom the question of how the provincial institutions will adapt to new electoral realities. I have no evidence for the following proposition and it’s pure supposition, but here goes: electoral pivot points in weak states can create new and competiting institutions rather than the transition of control over existing institutions. Could that happen here? Some Iraqis in Diyala, interviewed by Tony Shadid, feared it could:

After voting Saturday, his finger stained with purple ink, he said those forces were still holding more than 1,000 of his men, detained in an offensive by Maliki’s government last year that he said unfairly targeted his forces and Sunni regions. Even with a victory, Abu Talib said he doubted Badr would surrender control of the security forces.

"Definitely not," he said. "The obstacle that faces Iraq now is Badr."

Perhaps that quote is merely evidence that distrust doesn’t fade as soon as a ballot is cast. But it’s something to watch for. Iraq now has a model for creating militias to supplement the on-the-books security forces: the Sons of Iraq (or, as they’re called in Diyala, the Popular Committees). Why not expand the model if you feel you’re unfairly denied power — whether by the rightfully elected parties or the formerly dominant ones?

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Iraq's Provisional Elections: Shake The Sheets

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman