WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The results of the Saturday provincial elections in Iraq may determine the fate of the Shiite power structure and U.S. policy in the region, a report says.
The Shiite community makes up roughly 60 percent of the Iraqi population. Continuing their political dominance in the wake of a 2005 Sunni boycott, the results of the provincial council elections may define the Shiite power structure in Iraq in later national elections, notes the Washington-based Center for American Progress.
Shiites came to power in Iraq in the wake of the Saddam Hussein regime, marking a shift from Sunni dominance in the region apart from Iran. The consequences of the results Saturday may be a referendum on what has been an often bloody political conflict between the main Shiite parties in Iraq.
These parties -- Dawa of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki, the Sadrist Movement of Moqtada Sadr, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the lesser-known but powerful Fadhila -- are locked in a contentious power struggle over issues ranging from federalism to control over the bustling southern ports.
Meanwhile, the clerical leadership in the Shiite community, though not directly in the political fray, further complicates the political dynamics as few decisions are made without clerical guidance.
The political balance in Iraq is likely to shift Saturday, the report says, putting later elections and a July referendum on a U.S.-Iraqi security pact at stake.