In Iraq's election Sunday, voters will not be choosing a prime minister directly, but rather electing members of Parliament who will select one. In 2006, it took months of negotiations before legislators settled on Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. His coalition is expected to win the largest plurality of the new Parliament's 325 seats. But it is unlikely to be anywhere near a majority. To retain his post, he will have to cobble together a coalition among parties whose leaders seem able to unite only in the desire to elect a new leader.
Iraqi National Alliance
The coalition is the successor to the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite coalition that dominated the 2005 election but fell apart soon after. It is now the main Shiite opposition to Maliki, and includes the powerful Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and political followers of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, as well as smaller parties. Leading candidates will be a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and one of Iraq's two vice presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
State of Law Coalition
Led by Maliki, and dominated by his party, Dawa, which broke off from the UIA. Largely Shiite, it also includes 40 smaller parties from across Iraq's ethnic and religious spectrum. The group did well in last year's provincial elections by focusing on security and the establishment of effective local governments.
Unity Alliance of Iraq
Secular alliance between Shiites and Sunnis, in Anbar province. Led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a Shiite, and Anbar's most prominent tribal leader, Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha. Many candidates were disqualified because of Baathist pasts or sympathies. Members looked at joining other larger coalitions, but could not agree on terms.
A largely secular Sunni and Shiite coalition that has emerged as a potent challenger to the Shiite-led blocs. Led by a former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, and the country's other vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni. Two of its other leaders, Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani, both members of Parliament, were disqualified because of alleged sympathies to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
Also known as Tawafiq, it is made up almost entirely of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Many of the more secular Sunni leaders joined other alliances. Its most prominent candidate is the speaker of the current Parliament, Ayad al-Samarrai.
A new reform group, whose name means Change Party, opposed to corruption within Kurdish politics, it is expected to win about 5 percent of the vote. Election experts expect it to join the Kurdistan Alliance after the elections.
The two dominant Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have formed a formidable alliance, but face an opposition movement in Gorran. Expected to form a unified Kurdish bloc in Parliament and could be a swing vote in determining the next prime minister.
Source: New York Times