Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list finished a disappointing second in the March 2010 parliamentary election. Since then he has desperately been trying to put together a ruling coalition since the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled that the list with the largest number of seats before a new president is selected, rather than who won, would have the right to put together a new government. The problem for Maliki is that not only does he not have enough seats to be the largest alliance right now, but that he has also made so many enemies over the last few years in office. Maliki has turned on the Kurdish Alliance, the Sadrists, the Supreme Council, and the Iraqi Accordance Front in the last two years, all of which were part of his government originally, and used the security forces against most of them. The Prime Minister has also tried to centralize power around himself and his Dawa Party. Despite all that, Maliki is still promoting himself for a second term in office. His previous actions may come back to bite him however.
Since the March vote there have been scattered reports that Maliki’s opponents and even members of his own State of Law list are either opposed to his re-election as Prime Minister or are willing to sacrifice him to remain in power. On March 18 for example, McClatchy Newspapers reported that some in State of Law were willing to dump Maliki in return for leading positions within a new government. Three days later a member of the Supreme Council-Sadrist led Iraqi National Alliance told The National that his list and the Kurdish Alliance had an agreement to stop Maliki from returning to office. They said that if he were to be re-elected, he would continue to place Dawa officials throughout the civil service, and try to amass more power around himself. That was followed by a story in Azzaman that claimed the Sadrists, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and the Kurdish Alliance had all vetoed a second term for Maliki. The paper talked to Sadrists who claimed that Maliki had even mentioned concessions to them if he didn’t remain Prime Minister. They said he wanted Dawa members to keep their current positions, which was around 57% of the government bureaucracy, not to investigate corruption charges against him and his party, as well as to not look into criminal acts such as torture and executions. On April 1, the on-line magazine Niqash published accounts of State of Law members outside of the Dawa party who were willing to give up on Maliki if it meant keeping Allawi out of power. Finally, the Sadrists have been outspoken in their opposition to Maliki, and their recent referendum was a way to publicly express that when their National Alliance running mate Ibrahim al-Jaafari won. In a recent demonstration in Najaf to commemorate the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, Sadrist speakers also said that those in power, meaning Maliki, had to step down. The National Alliance is the most natural ally for State of Law since they are both Shiite led lists. The Sadrists have been the main reason why this has not happened, and there appears to be reservations by the Supreme Council as well about Maliki. The Prime Minister has also actively courted the Kurds since before the election even occurred. They have stated that a State of Law-National Alliance-Kurdish Alliance government would be the easiest and most natural to form, but they too have agreed to nothing yet. Members of Maliki’s own list may be beginning to see which way the wind is blowing even though none has publicly been willing to break with him.
The problem for Maliki is that he may be done, but doesn’t realize it yet. He has simply turned on too many people that he now desperately needs. If his State of Law had finished first he probably wouldn’t be in this position as he would have the upper hand. Now he needs other parties more than they need him, since Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement won the election. There are only a few reports now that express opposition to Maliki, but as time passes there may be more and more. His ego will likely prevent him from realizing his current position, dragging out the government formation process for months until he drops out of the race.
Ali, Ahmed, “Iraqiyya’s Path to Power,” Middle East Channel, Foreign Policy, 4/8/10
Allam, Hannah and Hammoudi, Laith, “Even if he wins, Maliki may be out as Iraq’s prime minister,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/18/10
Azzaman, “Mixed signals from Iran to accept the nomination of Allawi, Iraq’s prime minister,” 3/31/10
Latif, Nizar and Sands, Phil, “Iraqi election comes down to final ballots,” The National, 3/21/10
Najm, Hayder, “fall guy,” Niqash, 4/1/10
Zahra, Hassan Abdul, “Anti-US cleric denounces Iraqi PM at demo,” Agence France Presse, 4/9/10
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