Friday, March 12, 2010

Iraqi Parties Maneuver To Form New Ruling Coalition

As Iraq’s parties complain and contest the counting of the votes that were cast on March 7, 2010 for the country’s next parliament, those same lists are already hard at work trying to put together a new ruling coalition. On March 9 for example, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Iraqi National Alliance was quoted as saying that he felt a “conviction” to join with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law. The next day, Vice President Tariq Hashemi who ran as part of the Iraqi National Movement met with Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) leader Ammar al-Hakim, who is part of the National Alliance. For his part, Hakim courted the Kurds at a press conference on March 11 saying that they were an essential part of the country. The Kurdish Alliance, made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are demanding that PUK leader Jalal Talabani return as President of Iraq. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani already nominated Talabani for the post, while a parliamentary member of the Alliance said that the presidency would be a key demand. Finally, a member of State of Law said that it wouldn’t give up on its current allies in the government, the Supreme Council and the Kurdish Alliance.

Anything is possible in Iraqi politics, and the results of the election are only slowing trickling out, but early signs point to the current ruling coalition of Maliki’s Dawa led State of Law, the SIIC, KDP, and PUK joining together once again as they did in 2005. There were plenty of hints and rumors before the election that the State of Law and National Alliance were going to re-unite afterward. The Kurdish Alliance wants to maintain its influence in Baghdad, and has a long-standing relationship with the Supreme Council dating back to before the U.S. invasion in 2003. SIIC leader Hakim said back in January 2010 that the two had already agreed to a post-election deal. The National Alliance on the other hand, looks to be finishing a disappointing third behind the State of Law and National Movement, so maintaining the current line-up of the government would allow them to hold onto power. Finally Maliki’s main priority has always been to return as prime minister. He would’ve joined the National Alliance back in late 2009 if they had promised him that. Although he’s had disagreements with both the National and Kurdish Alliances in the past, holding onto his position is more important, and will likely lead him to make concessions to the two to gain their support. That could also mean shutting out former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s National Movement. The National Alliance already targeted Allawi’s list before and after the vote by banning their candidates through the Accountability and Justice Commission, which the National Alliance controls. Members of Allawi’s list have also said that they want an Arab to be president, which would be unacceptable to the Kurds. What direction the leading lists will actually take will be revealed soon enough as the Iraqi Election Commission announce their findings in the coming days.


AK News, “Ammar al-Hakim: The Kurds will always be main partners in Iraq,” 3/11/10
- “Maliki seeks coalition after March polls,” 3/1/10
- “Post of President “crucial point” for Kurds in forging alliances,” 3/10/10

Alsumaria, “Hashimi meets Hakim, tackle post elections,” 3/10/10
- “Al Maliki surprises Iraqi National Coalition,” 1/7/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Maliki’s bloc member says fresh mechanism to activate quadruple alliance needed,” 3/11/10
- “Presidency of Kurdistan nominates Talabani President of Iraq,” 3/10/10
- “PUK, KDP agree to form national bloc – al-Hakim,” 1/14/10
- “State of Law to ally with National Coalition to achieve majority-official,” 1/11/10

Dawlat Al-Qanon Network, “Al-Maliki Answers Reporters’ Questions Online,” MEMRI Blog, 12/8/09

Najm, Hayder, “coalition possible, constitution vital, says jaafari,” Niqash, 3/9/10

Al-Qabas, Al-Watan, Baghdad Times, Al-Hayat, Al-Zaman, “Iraq Votes – Part IV,” MEMRI Blog, 3/11/10

Shadid, Anthony and Arango, Tim, “In Early Tally, Tight Race Deepens Splits,” New York Times, 3/11/10

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, “Al-Maliki Meeting With Al-Sistani Indicates Approaching Alliance with Shi’a Coalition,” MEMRI Blog, 1/5/10


bb said...

Wasn't just Maliki's demand to be prime minister at issue. It was how the seats would be divvied up among the parties within the alliance.

Maliki's branch of Dawa only had 13seats in the UIA. His INA opponents (ISCI, Sadrists, Fadhila and Jafaari) had 92 seats between them! The INA parties were relying on the fact that between them they had won a higher % of the votes in the 9 shia provinces in the provincial elections than Maliki got. It seems thay may have miscalculated.

One can expect Maliki to cut a much tougher deal now.

Joel Wing said...

Yes, Maliki wanted half of the seats in the alliance plus a promise that he would be their only nominee for prime minister. None of the Alliance members would agree to that because they only wanted Maliki's popularity in the vote, not him because he had angered so many of them with his actions from 2008-2009.

bb said...

And Maliki will have a number of loyal supporters he will want to reward with ministries. Persoanlly I hope the sadrists get marginilised because of the way they ran the hospitals as torture centres when they held the ministry of health.

Maliki always used to moan that he had been saddled with a cabinet he couldn't select himself. So he will have had a good long time to think and plan.

Joel Wing said...

The Supreme Council was the first one to carry out assassinations. Their Badr Brigade killed people connected with the Iran-Iraq War right after the invasion, probably with hit lists provided by the Revolutionary Guard. They also took over the Interior Ministry later on, ran death squads, secret prisons, etc. all before the Sadrists were running the Health Ministry.

AndrewSshi said...

So Joel, from your observations, do you think that it's even remotely probable that State of Law and Iraqiya might be willing to form a government together? Or would the sectarian nature of Dawa be too much of a stumbling block for both sides?

Joel Wing said...

Another reader Jason has been asking that same question. It appears that Maliki will first attempt to recreate the current coalition. Even if they don't all get along I guess it's the ones he knows. A problem with Allawi's list is that some want Vice Pres Hashemi to become president while the Kurdish Alliance wants Talabani to remain in that position. I think it would take a lot to out maneuver the Kurds right now because the Supreme Council wants to ally with them again as they have since the invasion.

Jason said...

It may very well be just wishful thinking. But if Allawi were to join Maliki, they would command 60% or more of parliament. Enough to tell the Kurds and SIIC both to go pound sand.

bb said...

There is a marked difference between knocking off a hit list related to the Ian/Iraq war and taking over hospitals and using them as torure centres.

Like the Sadrists in health, the Interior ministry death squads, prisons etc came as a direct result of the Sunni/jihadis slaughter of shia who were entering the democratric process. In the end, the shiite paties dealt with them acording to Middle East rules.

One remembers all those years when the Sadrists were the poster boys of western armchair pundits who fondly envisioned them joining forces with the Sunni jihadis to bring down the democratic state.

What is good to see in these elections is the fundamentalist religious extremeist paties, both shia and sunni, getting walloped.

Joel Wing said...

The Supreme Council started knocking people off before the Sadrists and had institutional cover for their activities far before before the Mahdi Army as well. I don't think one was better than the other in that regard.

And I wouldn't go so far in your observation about the Islamist parties yet. The National Alliance is leading in Maysan and Qadisiyah, pulling second in the rest of the south, and will probably be a partner in the new government. The only Islamist party that has really fallen off is the Iraqi Islamic Party because of the fragmentation of the Sunni vote.