by Subhy Haddad and Shaalan Ahmed
BAGHDAD, Sept. 30, (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is striving to convince Sunni Arabs to join his list for the coming nationwide parliamentary elections in January next year, following his refusal to join the newly-established alliance of the majority of Shiite parties.
During the past weeks, Maliki has held talks with tribal chieftains and political leaders in the provinces of Salahaddin, Anbar, Kirkuk and Nineveh, with Sunni majority, to encourage them to join the coming elections that would reshape political map in the war-torn country.
"Maliki is waging a new race in the face of the Iraqi Shiite National Alliance, in order to gain support by the largest possible number of Sunni parties, blocs and personalities," Sabah Al-Sheikh, an Iraqi political analyst, told Xinhua in an interview.
He said in the Iraqi political scene, certain changes have occurred in the country after the provincial elections in January this year.
"A new power has emerged as a result of the provincial elections, which was the alliance led by Maliki, who achieved major successes against his current competitors and former partners in the Shiite alliance," said Sheikh.
He said the successes achieved by Maliki have pushed him to keep himself away from the main Shiite alliance that had helped him score the prime minister's post, in order to keep away the sectarian mold from his new election list and look for new alliances with the Sunni sect, which he strives to gain their support to keep his post for a new phase.
"I call for the people of Salahaddin province and other Iraqi provinces to participate effectively in the Voter Registration Update process in a way that will achieve a broad contribution in the next elections and chose those who possess potentiality, faith and ability to fulfill the prerequisites of the people and serve our homeland," Maliki told a meeting with tribal chieftains of Salahaddin Province on Sunday.
He reiterated necessity to impose the power of law in the Iraqi state, to achieve justice among Iraqi people and to "prevent the return of sectarian differences, because national reconciliation will be the 'safety boat' for all Iraqis."
"Maliki, in his meeting with the Sunni chieftains and personalities in these provinces has succeeded to attract some Sunni Arabs, who consider national reconciliation, adjustment of the constitution and achieving vocational security forces, as well as achieving equality, justice, services and rejecting sectarianism, as their main objectives," Sheikh said.
Maliki, himself a Shiite and a leader of the Shiite Daawa Party, has tried since he took power as prime minister four years ago, to fight extremist Shiite and Sunni sectarian trends and to bring close the two sects, representing the majority of Iraq's 28.5 million people.
In addition to the Shiite-Sunni issues, Maliki also tried to bring close the Arab and Turkoman communities who are under pressures by the Kurds who demand to annex the ethnically-mixed northern Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
"Security, stability and prosperity of Kirkuk is an important issue for us, because that province occupies a special concern for us, rejecting favoritism of any of its main national components on the account of others," Maliki said.
Maliki has called for the adjustment of the Iraqi Constitution, which involves a special paragraph related to Kirkuk's future, saying that such adjustment must be based on justice, equality and balancing among different Kirkuk communities.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution calls for carrying out a referendum aimed at deciding to give Kirkuk a special legal status or merging it with Iraqi Kurdistan, which unites northern Iraq's Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Duhuk, a trend already rejected by both Arabs and Turkoman communities.
The Iraqi prime minister had also conferred with tribal chieftains of both Anbar and Nineveh provinces, highly assessing the role of those tribes in fighting al-Qaida organization and kicking out their activists from both provinces, a critical step for the improvement of security in the whole country.
Sheikh said Maliki also wants to get support from the leaders of al-Sahwa (Awakening Council) groups, who fought al-Qaida and played an active role in restoring security in the country, an achievement Maliki was proud of in repeating that his government had realized security and stability in Iraq.
Within this trend, the leader of Sahwa groups in the town of Duluiyah, some 90 km north of Baghdad, Mulla Nadhim Al-Jubury told Xinhua that he "will support Maliki if he continues to follow his national line and act away from foreign agendas, safeguards Iraq's independence, away from trends to divide the country, as well as taking practical steps towards Iraq's former Baath Party members, as well as activating the accountability and justice law, which allow them to go back to civil live."
"We also want Maliki to have a clear and sound position towards the issue of Kirkuk, achieving the balancing of security forces and restoring the rights of all Iraq's former armed forces, except those whose their hands were involved in shedding the bloods of Iraqis," he added.
Some analysts believe that the majority of Iraqis hope to see an alliance including a majority of Iraq's political, religious and nationalist sects. But some Sunni blocs may oppose Maliki's ambition, worrying losing their due ballots.
Maliki is yet to announce his new alliance after his decision not to join the Iraqi (Shiite) National Alliance led by the young Shiite Cleric, Ammar Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, son of late Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, the Chairman of the (Shiite) Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) who passed away last month.