Feb 24 Iraq's political field is crowded with alliances seeking to woo voters ahead of a national election. Below is a list of major coalitions that will take part in the March 7 parliamentary poll:
STATE OF LAW
* Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has created a broad-based alliance of his Dawa party and other groups including some Sunni tribal leaders, Shi'ite Kurds, Christians and independents.
Dawa's roots are Shi'ite Islamist, but the coalition is running on an ostensibly non-sectarian platform. Its hopes of capitalising on improving security have been undermined by a series of high-profile attacks on government targets in Baghdad and its leaders have also jumped on a controversy about banning candidates with supposed links to Saddam Hussein's Baath party to play on sectarian fears.
The State of Law coalition was the big winner in Jan. 2009 provincial elections when it rode to victory with a message of security, services and a strong central state.
IRAQI NATIONAL ALLIANCE
* The INA, a mainly Shi'ite alliance, brings together the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), the country's biggest Shi'ite party, followers of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Basra-based Fadhila, Ahmed Chalabi, a Washington favourite before the 2003 invasion, and a few Sunni leaders. It is the chief rival to Maliki's coalition for the Shi'ite vote.
ISCI and the Sadrists are hoping to recapture some of the Shi'ite vote they lost to Maliki last year. There is also speculation that the INA could form a post-election coalition with Maliki's group if neither wins enough seats to form a government on its own -- a very likely outcome.
* The Kurdish coalition is dominated by the two parties that control Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
The Kurdish Democratic Party led by the region's president, Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani both stress Kurdish nationalism and enjoy close ties with the West.
Their grip on the Kurdish region was weakened, though, by the reform-minded Change bloc, which fared well in Kurdish parliamentary polls last year and will run on its own in March.
The Kurds have played king-maker in Iraq since the 2003 invasion and will likely retain enough clout after the March 7 vote to be part of a ruling alliance with another faction.
* Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, and senior Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq teamed up to run on a nationalist platform.
But the alliance's plans have been complicated by moves by an independent panel to bar Mutlaq and other Iraqiya candidates from the election over alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party.
Allawi's list is expected to fare quite well in the election and the candidate ban is viewed by some politicians, in particular Sunnis, as an attempt by the Shi'ite-led establishment to neuter a threat.
* Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a Shi'ite, Ahmed Abu Risha, a Sunni tribal leader from western Anbar province, and Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarai of the Sunni Endowment have formed this cross-confessional, secular group.
Like Iraqiya, the Iraq Unity list was disproportionately affected by the ban on candidates with alleged Baathist links.
* Tribal leaders will play an important role in the election and are being courted by major parties. Some of Iraq's Sunni tribal leaders sprang to prominence when U.S. forces began backing local sheikhs against al Qaeda in 2006.
While the tribal figures are looking to branch out into mainstream politics, they have not formed a united front and have mainly joined forces with existing blocs.
* There have been numerous defections from the Iraqi Accordance Front, once the country's main Sunni alliance, since the 2005 national elections. It now consists of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and some tribal leaders.
The group, which includes the speaker of parliament Ayad al-Samarai, seems unlikely to garner the same number of seats as it did in 2005 due to divisions within the Sunni electorate.
* Iraq's smaller minorities, including Turkmen, Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans, Shabak and others, are likely to ally with bigger electoral lists in areas where they are not dominant. (Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy and Baghdad newsroom; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
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