When Iraq’s parliament met on November 11, 2010 for only the second time since the March vote, newly re-elected President Jalal Talabani asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to return to office. Since then Talabani has not officially given a letter to Maliki anointing him the prime minister nominee. Both leaders are trying to drag out the process to give more time for negotiations to put together a new government.
The President has fifteen days to notify Maliki that he has the authority to form a ruling coalition, and then Maliki has thirty days to do so. Members of Maliki’s State of Law along with other politicians are worried that the premier may not be able to work out deals with the leading lists over the distribution of ministries and other top posts in the allotted time. Even though the major coalitions have come up with a point system using the number of seats they won, which can be used on positions that have been given numerical values based upon their importance, the horse-trading amongst the leaders is expected to be intense. In 2006, when Maliki formed his first government, it took two months to name all the major ministers.
This year the differences are even more intense, especially with the deep distrust Iyad Allawi has of Maliki. The latter for example, has demanded that the yet to be created National Council for Strategic Policy be given executive powers and the right to veto the prime minister’s decisions, while members of State of Law say that it will only be an advisory panel. There may also be complications with ending the bans by the Accountability and Justice Commission of four members of Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (INM). INM lawmakers have said that they won’t put forward names for the ministries until all of their demands in the power sharing agreement are approved by parliament.
Despite the worries about time frames, they are largely meaningless in Iraq. The government should’ve been formed months ago after the first session of parliament, but politicians got around that by keeping the session open until November. Now President Talabani isn’t expected to send an official letter to Maliki until just before his fifteen days are up, giving the prime minister more time for talks. If no one agrees within the next thirty days afterwards, the negotiations will just continue since Maliki has proven he is the only game in town, and there was never an important deadline that Iraqis couldn’t break.
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