Feb 24 A plethora of alliances are contesting
Iraq's parliamentary election on March 7, with none of them
likely to garner a clear majority. That means it may take weeks
if not months for parliament to pick the next prime minister.
The following are political figures who have been mentioned
as possible prime ministerial hopefuls:
* Nuri al-Maliki - The current prime minister is contesting
the election at the head of the State of Law coalition. While
his Dawa party has Islamist roots, Maliki has rebranded himself
as a secular nationalist campaigning on a platform that seeks
credit for increased security in Iraq, calls for improved public
services and promotes a vision of a strong, unified Iraq.
The coalition he is leading into the national election is
similar in nature to one that performed strongly, especially in
the Shi'ite south, in provincial elections in January 2009. The
last months of Maliki's tenure has seen a flurry of
multi-billion dollar deals with global oil majors, a move
analysts say is meant to tell voters that he also intends to
But a string of high-profile attacks by suicide bombers on
Baghdad and bomb attacks on Shi'ite pilgrims has dented Maliki's
security credentials. He also failed to forge as broad a
cross-sectarian alliance for the national vote as he had hoped
for, and Maliki now looks weaker than he did a year ago.
Maliki is regarded as sincere and honest by supporters. He
is viewed by critics as divisive and quick to cause anger. He
has turned many former allies into foes, and critics question
his willingness to seek reconciliation with once dominant
* Bayan Jabor - A prominent leader in the Supreme Islamic
Iraqi Council (ISCI), one of Maliki's main Shi'ite
partners-turned-rivals in the election. Jabor has been the
finance minister in Maliki's government. He was the interior
minister under the previous government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari,
when death squads ran riot in the Interior Ministry. The chaos
that governed the ministry did not reflect well on Jabor.
An engineer by training, Jabor has kept somewhat to the
background as finance minister. His discourse comes across as
more practical than political.
* Iyad Allawi - A secular Shi'ite, Allawi was prime minister
in the Iraqi Interim Government from 2004 to 2005. His political
bloc, the Iraqi National List, has fractured but he formed a new
alliance, under the Iraqiya banner, with prominent Sunni
politician Saleh al-Mutlaq and Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tarek
al-Hashemi. That cross-confessional alliance has been dealt a
blow by an independent panel's decision to ban Mutlaq from the
election for alleged links to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
A doctor by training, Allawi has become a leading critic of
Maliki's government and of the U.S. invasion. Once also highly
critical of Iranian involvement in Iraq, and in particular of
Tehran's support for Shi'ite militia, Allawi is reported to have
since sought to mend fences.
* Ibrahim al-Jaafari - A Shi'ite politician, Jaafari was
prime minister in the Iraqi Transitional Government between 2005
and 2006. Jaafari was the head of Maliki's Dawa party but left
it amid disagreement. He has joined the Iraqi National Alliance
headed by ISCI. He is also a doctor by training.
* Adel Abdul-Mahdi - A senior leader in ISCI, and member of
a family that has been involved in politics since the days of
the Iraqi monarchy, Abdul-Mahdi was a member of the Baath party
before Saddam Hussein seized power, then became a prominent
Marxist and ultimately an Islamist.
He is currently one of the country's two vice presidents
after being finance minister under Allawi. He is viewed as
friendly toward foreign investment and business.
* Ahmed Chalabi - A secular Shi'ite, Chalabi rose to
prominence as leader of the then-exiled Iraqi National Congress
which played a major role in encouraging the U.S. administration
of former President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and oust
Saddam. Once viewed in Washington as its preferred future Iraqi
leader, he lost favour among his American benefactors amid
accusations that he had passed information to arch-foe Iran.
Chalabi does not have a significant popular political base
of his own but joined the Iraqi National Alliance led by ISCI.
* Jawad al-Bolani - Currently interior minister, Bolani is
believed to have irritated others in the government, especially
Maliki, when he formed the Constitution Party ahead of the
January 2009 provincial election. The party did not perform
strongly and Bolani had been expected by many to link up with
Maliki for the national election.
Instead he has formed an alliance with Ahmed Abu Risha, a
prominent leader of anti-al Qaeda tribal sheikhs, and Ahmed
Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai of the Sunni Endowment, a government
body that supervises Sunni mosques and properties. Their list is
called Iraq's Unity. Bolani was an army officer under Saddam.
* Qassam Daoud - A liberal Shi'ite politician, Daoud was a
member of Allawi's Iraqiya list and minister of national
security under Allawi. He left to join the Shi'ite alliance
backing Maliki's government and has signed up with the ISCI- and
Sadrist-led INA for the coming election.
* Raad Mawlude Mukhlis - Son of a family of prominent Sunni
politicians based in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, Mukhlis is not
particularly well-known. He has joined Bolani's Iraq's Unity
list. His family was severely repressed by Saddam and relatives
executed. He headed a party running in the last election in 2005
but it failed to perform strongly.