BAGHDAD, April 30 (Xinhua) -- More than 9,000 candidates from nearly 280 political entities are vying for the 328 seats in Iraq' s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, the first since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011.
The following is an brief introduction to some major coalitions and parties running for the elections:
I. Mainly Shiite coalitions and parties:
State of Law Coalition
The State of Law Coalition consists of 12 political entities led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the Islamic Dawa Party. The bloc came second with 89 seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections, but later built a larger alliance with other coalitions to form a new government in a controversial move that upset the leading Iraqiya coalition which won 91 seats. It campaigns to form a majority government and strengthen the central rule. Many local observers believe that the mainly Shiite State of Law Coalition will possibly lead in the elections this time but still will be far away from securing a majority, as it faces severe challenges from other electoral entities, including rival Shiite blocs.
The Citizen Coalition consists of 20 political entities led by Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite Islamist political party. Former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi is a member of the bloc. The Citizen Coalition adopts more moderate positions in its campaigns this time to expand its ranks and is considered a strong rival to the State of Law Coalition.
The Ahrar Coalition of three political entities is formed mainly by followers of the Shiite Islamist populist Sadrist Movement. The bloc is a vocal critic of the al-Maliki administration. Although Sadrist Movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr has claimed to withdraw from politics, the Ahrar Coalition continues to run in the elections.
National Reform Alliance
The National Reform Alliance consists of seven political entities led by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the National Reform Movement, a conservative Shiite Islamic party. The bloc calls for reforms but is considered to be close to al-Maliki's policies.
II. Mainly Sunni/secular coalitions and parties:
United for Reform Coalition
The United for Reform Coalition consists of 13 political entities led by parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. The bloc, which is often at odds with al-Maliki's government, is seeking to win support across Sunni areas and become a leading Sunni force.
The Al-Arabiya Coalition consists of nine political entities led by deputy Prime Minister Salih al-Mutlak, leader of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, a Sunni Arab political party. The Arab nationalist bloc's supporters are from Sunni-majority areas, but its influence declines in Anbar province where many people think al-Mutlak is close to the prime minister.
The National Coalition consists of 15 political entities led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The cross-sectarian alliance features nationalist members from both Sunni and Shiite areas and participates in elections in all Arabic-speaking provinces.
The newly-formed Sunni political bloc named Dignity, which is sponsored by wealthy Iraqi businessman Khamis al-Khanjar, has gained rising popularity recently as it clearly voices its support for Sunni protesters who have been accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalizing them.
III. Kurdish coalitions and parties:
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
The KDP, founded in 1946 by prominent Kurdish nationalist leader Mustafa Barzani, is one of the two governing parties in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Its current leader is Masoud Barzani, son of Mustafa Barzani and president of the autonomous region. In the Kurdish regional parliament elections in 2013, the KDP came first by wining 38 seats out of the total 111 seats.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
The PUK was founded in 1975 by leading Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani, who is also the current Iraqi president. The PUK is one of the two governing parties in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Talabani has been in Germany for treatment after he suffered a stroke in December 2012. In the Kurdish regional parliament elections in 2013, the PUK ranked third by wining 18 seats out of the total 111 seats.
The Change movement is a reformist Iraqi Kurdish opposition party founded by former PUK deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa in 2009. It has been popular in recent years and challenging the years-old KDP-PUK duopoly in Kurdish politics. In the Kurdish regional parliament elections in 2013, the Change movement came second by wining 24 seats out of the total 111 seats.