Iraq will hold a general election on 7 March 2010 - later than the previously-planned date in January because of delays in finalising the electoral law. Six large coalitions have been announced to contest the election.
"State of Law" is organised around current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. The Iraqi National Alliance, around the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Sadr movement, and Fadila. Iraqiyya, around former prime minister Iyad Allawi, former Iraq Islamic Party leader Tariq al-Hashimi, and some ex-Ba'thists. Tawafuq, around "soft" Sunni Islamists.
There is a coalition of Kurdish parties, mainly PUK and KDP, and a new coalition, Unity of Iraq, made up from several splinter groups previously Sunni or Shia aligned.
All the coalitions, other than the Kurdish one, claim to be non-sectarian and for national unity, and all have at least some show of cross-sectarian support.
The Iraqi Communist Party has a list, "People's Unity", with some smaller groups. Previously it had allied with Allawi.
The Worker-communist Party of Iraq initially declared it would contest the election, as explained in the interview below with WPIraq leader Muayad Ahmed. In mid-December it withdrew, citing undemocratic features in the election law.
Each of Iraq's 18 provinces will be a "constituency", electing between 68 and 7 parliamentary deputies by proportional representation within the province. The votes for parties which fail to reach the threshhold for proportional representation will be redistribute proportionately to those which do reach the threshhold.
There will be "top-up" seats for parties deemed to be under-represented on the basis of their cross-Iraq vote, and a few reserved seats for minorities.
The previous Iraqi elections in 2005 used "closed lists" - people voted for party lists without being told the names of the candidates on the list - but this election will be by "open lists", with candidates named and an option for voters to choose between individuals as well as lists.
All candidates are required to have a high-school certificate and be at least 30 years old.
A referendum will be held on the same day on the deal about US troops made by the Iraqi and US governments late in 2008, under which US troops withdrew from Iraqi cities on 30 June 2009 and are due to quit Iraq altogether at the end of 2011. If the deal is rejected, then the Iraqi government will call on the US troops to quit within a year (by March 2011) rather than by December 2011.
The Worker-communist Party of Iraq commented: "The system which serves the basic aspirations of the masses in Iraq is the open voting list, regarding Iraq as one electoral district, not granting votes of the parties who have not achieved the minimum quota to any other party, endorsing the age of 18 as the legal age for voting and candidacy, and securing conditions and circumstances suitable to hold elections where no form of blackmail, terrorism and bribed voting takes place".
Believing the final electoral law to be too far away from that system, the WPIraq reversed its decision to contest the elections. Instead it will campaign to boycott the poll.
Workers' Liberty and Solidarity had argued with the Worker-communist Party of Iraq in 2005 that they should contest the elections then. Marxists should not wait until the ruling parties concede a democratic electoral law; even a small opening to present a working-class alternative to the electorate should be seized. We were pleased when the WPIraq said it would contest the 2010 elections, and the decision to withdraw means, to our mind, a missed opportunity.