Monday, January 30, 2012

Iraqi National Movement Ends Its Boycott In Face Of Possible Break-Up Of Party

Iraqi Natonal Movement spokeswoman Maysoun al-Damlouji announcing the end of the list's boycott of parliament (Reuters)
The Iraqi National Movement (INM) gave up on its boycott of parliament after a meeting on January 29, 2012. Official spokesmen said the decision was made to improve the political atmosphere in the country, and to prepare the way for a planned national conference. Behind the scenes one leader anonymously said that the real reason was that the list was about to break-up if it continued on with its course of action. The party was deeply divided over not attending the legislature and the cabinet. The hopes for a successful meeting of national leaders is also not likely to resolve anything either. That shows that the National Movement has overplayed its hand once again due to its bad leadership.

On January 28, 2012, the major leaders of the Iraqi National Movement (INM) met to discuss their stance towards the government. Those in attendance included Iyad Allawi, Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, Finance Minister Rafi Issawi, and Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq. The major topic of discussion was whether they would maintain their boycott of parliament. At first, the list denied that it would return to the legislature, but the next day it revealed that it actually would. The official explanation was that they wanted to help with the planned national conference of the country’s leaders, which is supposed to work out all of the political differences between the major parties. One senior leader however, told Reuters that it was because the list was about to break-up if it didn’t change direction. The main players within the INM had different positions on how to deal with their problems with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi and Vice President Tariq Hashemi were for leaving the government, and moving into the opposition. Speaker Nujafi and Jamal Karbuli, who leads the Solution Movement within the INM felt that they should stay part of the national coalition, and Deputy Premier Mutlaq was split between the two sides. At the beginning of January, six members of the National Movement also attended parliament, and were kicked out of the INM as a result. The list has always been a large and unwieldy collection of parties. Maliki was able to play upon these differences when putting the government together by giving many of the individual leaders positions within the government to buy them off, while excluding Allawi. The boycott was also ineffective, because the INM did not have enough seats to stop parliament from having a quorum to conduct business. Important laws like the 2012 budget were coming up as well, which all parties will benefit from as they run ministries that they use to dole out patronage and projects to their followers. All together, this put tremendous pressure upon the National Movement to give up its boycott.

The Iraqi National Movement is supposed to have another meeting to decide what to do with not attending the cabinet. That has been poorly followed by the list, with up to five of the nine INM ministers attending the cabinet at one time or another. Again, the ministers hold actual power with large staffs and budgets to administer. Those were too much for the majority of INM members to give up, and thus they went to sessions of the cabinet despite the directions of their list. That boycott is likely to collapse officially as well.

Finally, the hopes of a successful conference are disappearing with every day. On January 27 for example, Moqtada al-Sadr said he would not attend, because he was a religious figure, not a politician. Allawi has called for all of the major leaders to be there, so this was another major setback. Not only that, but there is no reason for Maliki to compromise if the meeting ever takes place. The INM does not have the votes to hold a no confidence vote against him, they do not have the seats in parliament to stop it from holding a quorum, and half the INM ministers are showing up to the cabinet anyway. The National Movement simply does not have any leverage in this dispute with Maliki.

The Iraqi National Movement ended up winning the most seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections, but has been consistently outmaneuvered since then. Its major leaders were each given top positions in the new government, and left Allawi out in the cold hoping for a committee to be formed, which he would lead, but that has been completely dropped. Since then, Allawi has been left to constantly snipe at Maliki, while he barely attends parliament, and spends large amounts of time outside the country. This latest crisis was badly played by the list once again. Its responses to Mailiki’s call for a no confidence vote against Deputy Premier Mutlaq and the arrest warrant for Vice President Hashemi have been completely ineffective. Not only that, but they have shown how deeply divided and fragile the list is. That has left Maliki in the enviable position of simply waiting out the crisis knowing full well that the INM could not keep up its tactics, and in this case, would likely come out even weaker than before. The final episode of this drama has not been played out, but it shows that the party may do better without following Allawi and Mutlaq the next time something like this happen, which it definitely will given the personal animosities amongst Iraq’s leading politicians.


AIN, “Majority of IS members supports withdraw from Government,” 1/26/12
- “MP rules out IS withdrawal from political process,” 1/26/12

Mardini, Ramzy, “Iraq’s Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 6,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/27/12

National Iraq News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS Iraqiya decides that its law makers attend Parliament’s session to debate the Budge, General Amnesty Law,” 1/28/12

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iraq’s Sunni-backed bloc faces key decision,” Reuters, 1/25/12
- “Iraq’s Sunni-backed bloc to end parliament boycott,” Reuters, 1/29/12

Al-Shummari, Yazn, “Where? Not bothered really – no red lines for Allawi on conference location,” AK News, 1/17/12

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 31,” 1/25/12

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