Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Maliki’s New State Of Law List May Not Be Enough

On October 1, 2009 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki revealed his new State of Law List, which will run in the January 2010 parliamentary elections. Despite many reports of Maliki attempting to add new members to his coalition, especially Sunnis, the Prime Minister apparently struck out in his attempts. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening Conference in Anbar, talked about running with Maliki for the last six months, but instead formed a new alliance with Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Constitution Party, and several tribal groups in the new Iraqi Unity List. Former speaker of parliament Mahmud al-Mashhadani, an independent Sunni who heads the Nationalist Independent Trend, at first said that he had joined the State of Law, and then withdrew. Sunni Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front was another likely candidate, which Maliki had courted after the January 2009 parliamentary elections, said back in March that he was interested in working with the State of Law, but those talks fell apart by September. Mutlaq instead joined with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, who also at one time expressed an interest in Maliki’s coalition. Member of parliament Mithal al-Alusi, Ninewa’s ruling al-Hadbaa party, and the new Kurdish opposition party, the Change List, were also not a part of the State of Law either. Maliki even went after Sunni tribal leaders in places like Salahaddin, Anbar, Tamim, and Ninewa, but nothing came of that. Maliki also made overtures to former Shiite rivals like the Sadrists when provincial governments were being put together earlier in the year, but they ended up joining the new Iraqi National Alliance instead.

The reason for these failures are largely unknown since the negotiations all occurred behind closed doors. It was reported that Maliki and al-Mutlaq agreed that their policies and constituencies would be contradictory. Maliki for example, has recently gone after Baathists for the August 2009 Baghdad bombings, while former regime members are exactly who Mutlaq appeals to. Sadr on the other hand, was probably pressured by Iran to join the National Alliance, since one of their main priorities is to maintain Shiite rule in Iraq.

Instead, what Prime Minister Maliki is going to run with is leftovers. The leadership of the State of Law is still with his Dawa Party. The Dawa-Iraq Organization is also a core member. After that it’s a number of ministers and government officials, such as Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, and independent Shiite politicians that follow him, Minister of Displacement and Migration, Abdul Samad Sultan, an independent Kurd, and government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. Maliki was able to get some members of Allawi’s Iraqi National List to defect, such as the deputy speaker of parliament, and a group from al-Hadbaa in the Sinjar district in Ninewa. The only prominent Sunni that agreed to join was Sheikh Ali Hatem Sulaiman from Anbar who was formerly with the Abu Risha’s Awakening. The Iraqi Communist Party was originally announced as a member as well, but then denied it.

Maliki is facing an uphill battle to return to the prime ministership. He’s running on security, which has been questioned after the August Baghdad bombings, better services, which are not coming, and getting the Americans to leave. The individual members of the Iraqi National Alliance did far worse than Maliki’s State of Law in the provincial elections, but all together they did slightly better. The Kurds are still a relatively unified bloc of voters as well, and may be kingmakers in Iraq after the elections in whatever ruling coalition is put together. They have had repeated run-ins with Maliki. What he has going for him is that he is far better known and popular than any other Iraqi politician. His nationalist, and strong central government platform, also appeals to many. His inability to bring in any new major figures or parties however may show the limit of his power. As it stands, he probably has a 50-50 chance to hold onto his position.


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Anand said...

Disappointed that Abu Risha isn't joining Maliki. They would have been the dream team. {Especially if Alusi had joined them.}

Any info on where Alusi is going?

Joel Wing said...

Alusi is a non- entity in the western press and hardly ever gets mentioned. He's only talked about by think tanks and blogs in English, so can't tell you what he's doing right now.

Anand said...

Alusi is respected among Iraqis as an honest politician. Maybe the American equivalent would be the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He is also seen as too straight up to every wield real power. He might, however, be a good technocratic minister in a future Iraqi government.

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