Provincial Governments in Southern Iraq


   Following Iraq’s provincial council elections on January 31, 2009, the political parties that captured seats in the provinces of the mainly Shia south scrambled to form ruling alliances; these coalitions then selected council presidents and governors for each province, as stipulated in the Provincial Powers Law (PPL) which was passed in March 2008 and went into effect following the January 2009 provincial elections.

    According to the PPL, a governor’s primary responsibilities are to direct local security and set the budget in his province. His power is restricted first through dependence on the provincial council (especially the cooperation of the council chairman) for approval of his security and budgetary measures; and second by reliance on the national government for funding, although opportunities exist for raising revenue locally, such as religious tourism in Najaf. The governor is dependent on both the provincial council and the national ministries to approve his nominations for senior positions in the province, including heads of security agencies. Furthermore, neither the governor nor the council enjoy any authority over functions of national ministries, including health, education, transportation, water, and sewage. Currently, the powers of the provincial councils and governors are not clearly delineated; much will depend on how much control over local security the national government affords the provinces.

    Below are summaries of the post-election political developments in each southern province, including the names and party affiliation of the new governors and council heads. In every southern province, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, campaigning under the State of Law (SoL) electoral list, emerged as a powerful force and took aggressive action to establish itself as a ruling party. Dawa’s broad strategy appears to have been to isolate the once-regnant Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) by allying with other parties, including Sadrists, secularists, and local politicians. This strategy seems to have succeeded in every province but three: in Muthanna, ISCI was able to outmaneuver Dawa and control the council, while in Wasit and Maysan on the Iranian border Dawa opted to include ISCI in its ruling coalition at the expense of other parties.     

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