Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Iraqs political system, the result of a U.S.-supported election process, is increasingly characterized by peaceful competition rather than violence, as well as by cross-sectarian alliances. However, ethnic and factional infighting continue to affect national decision-making and security. Some believe that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, strengthened politically by the January 31, 2009, provincial elections, is increasingly authoritarian, in part to ensure that he holds power after the planned March 2010 national elections. Maliki is widely assessed as gaining control of the security services and building new security organs loyal to him personally. He also has formed cross-sectarian alliances with a wide range of Sunni and Kurdish factions to counter new coalitions by a wide range of erstwhile allies and former opponents. The continuing infighting among the major communities delayed the National Assemblys passage of the election law needed to hold the early 2010 national elections. The next Assembly will have 325 seats, compared to 275 seats in the current Assembly. The election date has been set for March 7, 2010, well beyond the January 31, 2010, date that was originally targeted. Based partly on the continued relatively low levels of violence in Iraq in February 2009 the Obama Administration announced a reduction of the U.S. troop presence to about 50,000 U.S. forces by August 2010. Under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement that took effect January 1, 2009, all U.S. forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Senior U.S. military leaders have said in January 2010 that the U.S. draw-down plans are on track and have not been altered by the violence or the election delay. Nor have the recent attacks reignited large-scale sectarian violence that could cause a U.S. reevaluation of its plans.
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