Iraq’s New Electoral Process, and the Likely Winners and Losers

By: LtCol Sami Alshehri, KSA, CSAG CCJ5
05 Oct 2021


The Iraqi elections come amid positive signs of Middle East de-escalation and new geopolitical conditions. These positive signs include the Baghdad Summit of neighboring countries, the recent KSA–Iran discussions in Iraq, bilateral visits between Iraq and GCC countries, and the loss of Iranian influence in Iraq. Examples of a decrease in Iran’s influence are the Iraqi-Shia protests against Iran, strengthened Iraqi relations with GCC, and Muqtada AlSadr’s statements against Iranian influence. This situation presents opportunities for Iraq to gain internal stability and the upcoming elections will have impact an immediate and long-term future for the region.

Iraq has held numerous elections since the US overthrew of the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  In most of those elections, voting was based on ethnic, sectarian grounds, and partisan and personal interests. Previous Iraqi elections were considered seasons to revive sectarian discourse where parties race to win the largest number of supporters through their candidates’ sectarianism rhetoric. Such electoral disfunction was evident in voting boycotts by main components of the Iraqi people. The populace has expressed a lack of confidence in the electoral process despite over 15 years of reform efforts.

Iraq is on the eve of its fifth electoral experience since 2005. The 2021 elections are particularly important for two key reasons. The first reason is its reformed processes are in response to widespread protests in October 2019. Many Iraqi protestors (especially among the youth, across different regions of the country) expressed hope to gain an equal share of political empowerment. The protestors’ pessimism was based upon ethnic tensions and the control exercised by some armed factions. Although many believed their voices would not be heard, the protests resulted in changes in electoral law. As for the second reason, the elections are also in the geopolitical shadow of the recent Baghdad Summit. The Iraqi Prime Minister has sought to portray Iraq as a neutral mediator in the region’s crises and is re-engaging internationally after years of internal struggle.

The Iraqi Electoral Commission stated, elections will take place on October 10, 2021. Elections will consist of the participation of 21 political alliances and 167 participating parties. In total, 3,249 candidates are competing (951 of which are women). Despite reports about postponing the elections, the Iraqi Prime Minister rejected such a possibility. He stressed during a press conference that the government will stick to the scheduled date.

Key Points:

  • The Iraqi elections come amid positive signs of Middle East de-escalation and new geopolitical conditions.
  • Political stability could open doors for Iraq to play a mediator role in the region, especially after Baghdad’s actions as a neutral mediator in the region.
  • Although contrary to the goal of protestors, militias will likely have success in the elections.
  • Since the likely winners of the early elections in Iraq are the same political players, it is unlikely that the upcoming elections will result in significant changes to the political map or cause major alterations to the ruling parties.
  • Muqtada Al-Sadr is working to promote his movement as a moderate and effective alternative on the Iraqi Shia political scene. He is also seeking to reassure the West.
  • The Tishreen is a spontaneous social movement that is not ideologized nor supported by external countries. Although it lacks a unified strategy, it will mature over time, and thus, Tishreen options and programmatic agendas will crystallize.

Read the complete paper here.


The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.