Sunday, November 14, 2010

More On The Iraqi National Movement’s Walkout and Future Participation In Government

Controversy continues to surround what will happen in the Iraqi parliament. On November 11, 2010 it held its second session since the March elections. Osama Nujafi of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (INM) was elected speaker, along with his two deputies, Jalal Talabani returned for a second term as Iraq’s president, and Nouri al-Maliki was asked to form a new ruling coalition. During that meeting the National Movement walked out. Their participation in the political process is the major issue facing the future government.

Before parliament met on November 11 the three major lists, Maliki’s State of Law, the Kurdish Coalition, and the National Movement came to an agreement. Maliki and Talabani would return to power, the INM would get the speaker, the Accountability and Justice Commission’s ban on three prominent members of Allawi’s list would be reversed, a new National Council for Strategic Policy headed by Allawi would be created to replace the National Security Council, a committee would be created to review the arrests of prisoners, and power sharing would be codified. After Nujafi and his two deputies were elected, the legislature was then supposed to vote on the INM’s demands to formalize them. Instead, Talabani was elected president for a second term. That led Allawi and 57 of his 91 lawmakers to walk out. The INM then produced a signed document by Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, Allawi, and Maliki that the National Movement’s banned members would be dealt with before Talabani was elected. 

Allawi’s list was understandably upset with the proceedings, and there was some discussion about whether they would show up at the next session of parliament let alone join a new ruling coalition. Many INM member said that Maliki and others had betrayed them. The National Movement even called President Obama asking him to intervene to assure that their demands would be met. They also threatened to go to the United Nations or the Arab League. To add to the problems a member of State of Law said that Allawi’s points were illegal, and they and Kurdish politicians questioned Nujafi’s qualifications to be speaker, and criticized his opening speech. Allawi warned that he was ready to walk away from the talks and go into the opposition as a result.  

Nevertheless, the National Movement said on November 12 that they were still committed to forming a new government. The next day, they and the other blocs returned to parliament. The legislature then voted to implement the power sharing agreement between the three major lists. One lawmaker said that the three banned members of the INM would be cleared within 10 days. It seems that for now, the differences between Allawi and the others are being put aside as the parties continue talks. The next session of the legislature will not be held until November 21 because of a religious holiday. 

What the INM can get out of these prolonged negotiations is an open question as they are obviously the biggest loser. Maliki not only retained the premiership, but has established himself as the leader of most of the Shiite parties. The Kurds became the final kingmakers with Barzani managing and coaxing the major parties to come together, proving that he was a national leader. Allawi on the other hand, was left demanding that only he had the right to form a government since he won the most seats in the election, as Maliki was gaining supporters. Even the National Council for Strategic Policies that he is supposed to head is being interpreted differently. Allawi is demanding that it have veto powers over the prime minister’s decisions, but the body doesn’t even exist yet, and there may be major loopholes in its authority. Finally, Allawi was almost undercut by his own followers, around half of which threatened to leave him if he didn’t sign onto the Barzani agreement. That faction wants to have some say in the ruling coalition rather than being completely shut out. They also have their own individual agendas, which they may not be willing to sacrifice for Allawi. He may turn out to be in the weakest position of all as he failed to become premier, members of his list will get ministerships, while he may be left waiting for the National Council to be formed that might not have as much authority as he hoped. In the end, the 2010 election may not be as much of a game changer as some original believed. Instead it will maintain the status quo as the new government will look and act much like Maliki’s original one from 2006.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Hevidar, “Lawmakers object to new parliament speaker speech,” AK News, 11/12/10

Alsumaria, “National Alliance refuses Al Iraqiya demands,” 11/13/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Maliki, Barazani withdraw signatures on deal with Iraqiya,” 11/13/10
- “MPs enter constitutional hall to resume parliament session,” 11/13/10

Chulov, Martin, “Ayad Allawi puts Iraq power-sharing deal at risk,” Guardian, 11/12/10

Faraj, Salam, “Iraqi MPs salvage power-sharing pact after walk-out,” Agence France Presse, 11/13/10

Al-Jader, May, “SLC describes al-Iraqiya’s demands illegal,” AK News, 11/12/10

Al Jazeera, “Iraq pact heralds new political era,” 11/12/10

Lando, Ben, “Maliki, Talibani in after Iraqiya walk-outs,” Iraq Oil Report, 11/12/10

Nakhelnews, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Inauspicious Start for New Agreement Among Iraqi Leaders,” MEMRI Blog, 11/12/10

Al-Shemmari, Yazn, “Iraqiya announces its participation in parliament,” AK News, 11/12/10

Al-Zayyadi, Kholoud, “Lawmakers vote unanimously to implement agreements of Barzani’s initiative,” AK News, 11/13/10

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