News

Iraqi Voters Offered a Wide Array of Candidates

Multimedia

Audio

Next Sunday, millions of Iraqi voters are expected to head to the polls to choose a new national assembly, which will name a president and two deputies. In turn, they will decide who will become the next interim prime minister. Three of the leading candidates for the country's most-powerful position are all from the same slate that is expected to dominate the elections.

Iraqi voters will have to choose among a dizzying array of parties and coalitions vying for seats in the new 275-member national assembly. There are 111 political entities listed on the ballot, representing nearly 8,000 candidates.

But, because seats on the assembly will allocated under a political system that rewards nationwide voter turnout, most observers here believe the biggest winner Sunday will be the largely-Shi'ite slate called the United Iraqi Alliance.

Making up 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, Shi'ite Muslims are the dominant majority in the country.

The United Iraqi Alliance was put together at the request of Iraqi Shi'ite's most-senior religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The coalition is headed by a close confidant of the ayatollah, Shi'ite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Mr. Sistani, who calls voting a "religious duty" for all Shi'ites, commands so much influence among Iraqi Shi'ites, preliminary surveys indicate as many as 45 percent of registered Shi'ites may vote for the slate.

With the United Iraqi Alliance poised to win a large number, if not a majority, of seats in the new assembly, observers in Baghdad say it is not surprising that some of the top contenders for the prime minister post are members of Mr. Sistani's coalition.

One of the strongest alliance candidates for the job is believed to be the current interim finance minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi. The 62 year-old, French-educated minister is a senior member of the powerful Shi'ite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party, headed by United Iraqi Alliance leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi, who is seen as a moderate, leaped into the ranks of front-runners after he met with both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington, last October.

In an interview with VOA, the finance minister downplayed recent news reports suggesting that he has already been tapped to become the next prime minister.

"Nothing of that really is discussed within the list. This question is open to later on," said Mr. Abdul-Mahdi. "We're in a very critical situation in Iraq, so I don't think we're in a position to predict."

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi's closest potential rival for the post of prime minister on the United Iraqi Alliance slate is said to be interim Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The 57-year-old physician-turned-politician is the main spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party, which waged a fierce campaign against Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in the late 1970s. Mr. Jaafari, who led the party in exile in Iran until the fall of Saddam's regime in April, 2003, consistently ranks as the most popular politician among Iraqi Shi'ites.

Another potential prime ministerial candidate is Hussein al-Shahristani, who was one of six people hand-picked by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to draw up the United Iraqi Alliance's candidates list. The Canadian-educated nuclear scientist was arrested and jailed in 1979 by Saddam after he refused to work in the dictator's nuclear program.

Mr. Shahristani is now Grand Ayatollah Sistani's closest political advisor. Observers say, although the scientist has shown little enthusiasm for becoming the next prime minister, he would probably accept the position, if it is offered to him.

Depending on the election results, the three United Iraqi Alliance candidates could face stiff competition from the current Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He has put together a largely secular slate for the elections, in hopes of attracting Iraqis who are do not want strong religious influence in Iraqi politics.

Mr. Allawi's aides predict that, if his slate wins 70 or more seats on the 275-member assembly, Mr. Allawi, a Shi'ite, will be able to generate enough support in the assembly to be reappointed as prime minister.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs