Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list was the biggest winner after the January 2009 provincial elections. Since the results have been announced Maliki has been maneuvering to create a new ruling coalition that would participate in the 2009 parliamentary elections and be his new source of support.
When Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006 he was backed by a coalition of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds that followed the “national unity” model propagated by the Americans. His main supporters were the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance made up of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Dawa – Iraq, the Sadrist Trend, the Fadhila Party, Maliki’s own Dawa Party, the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party, and smaller independent parties. Maliki was actually a compromise candidate as the Sadrists and SIIC could not initially agree on who was to replace Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
The ruling alliance quickly fractured because of these differences. By the end of 2006 the Kurds, Accordance Front, Dawa and the SIIC were all conspiring to push Sadr out of the government. The U.S. was also applying pressure to exclude him. Sadr had already sealed his own fate when he withdrew his six ministers from the cabinet at the end of November 2006, thereby denying him any real say in the government. The U.S. and Shiites parties were hoping that including Sadr in the government would turn him towards politics, and away from being a militia leader, but Sadr’s position always came from his ability to control the streets and violence, so one could not come without the other. Eventually both the Sadrists and Fadhila left the United Shiite Alliance and Maliki’s ruling coalition. A new alliance was then made consisting of the Dawa, the Supreme Council, and the two Kurdish parties. The Accordance Front was later brought on board as well.
While the ruling parties were generally united in getting rid of Sadr they had some fundamental differences on the future of the country as well. The Kurds and Supreme Council both supported federalism. The Kurds wanted more autonomy for Kurdistan, while the SIIC were pushing for a nine province Shiite region in the south. Maliki on the other hand wanted a stronger central government based in Baghdad. As the Prime Minister began exerting more of his power with the improved security situation in 2008, these differences began coming to the fore. By the fall both parties were criticizing and making moves against Maliki, and he was replying in turn.
Since the January 2009 provincial elections, the Prime Minister has been attempting to forge a new alliance to run in the parliamentary elections and back him afterwards. Although the coalition has not been finalized the broad outlines of it are apparent. The new grouping looks to be made up of Maliki’s State of Law List with the Dawa Party at its core, the Sadrists, the Sunni Iraqi National Dialogue Front who ran as the Iraqi National Project in the provincial balloting, and perhaps Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List. This group has already made a deal to rule Wasit province. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the Dialogue Front has also said he is open to joining with the State of Law list in Diyala, Salahaddin, Baghdad, and Babil. According to the Al-Qatan paper, Maliki is also courting the Fadhila party, Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Reform List, and Ahmad Chalabi. Originally, Allawi looked to be joining with the SIIC, but he has apparently changed his mind as the State of Law offers the chance to rule. While Saleh and the Sadrists are both apprehensive of working with Maliki since they have had major differences with him in the past, what unites them is opposition to the Supreme Council and the Kurds, and of course the chance to hold power.
The SIIC and Kurds, along with the Iraqi Accordance Front have attempted to keep their old alliance together. In Diyala for example, the Accordance Front, the Supreme Council, and the Kurdish Alliance have agreed to work together to run the provincial council.
Whether Maliki’s attempt to re-arrange Iraq’s political map succeeds or not is yet to be seen. The ruling provincial councils have not even been announced yet, and there is still plenty of negotiating to be done. What is for sure is that the old coalitions are mostly dead. The United Iraqi Alliance, which was the largest victor in the 2005 parliamentary elections, has now broken apart. The Sunni Accordance Front has also split. The Kurdish alliance is the only one that remains, and they are now diametrically opposed to Maliki and his attempt to centralize power. This is all part of the new status quo that is still emerging after the end of the sectarian war of 2006-2007.
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