Iraq is in the middle of its latest political crisis, pitting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against his rival the Iraqi National Movement (INM). The Premier issued an arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hasehmi on terrorism charges, and asked for a vote of no confidence against Deputy Premier Salehal-Mutlaq in the middle of December, both of which are leaders of the National Movement. These provocations seemed to unify the list, which had been fragmented before, and led them to announce a boycott of parliament and the cabinet. Not all members have welcomed this move. Some have attended cabinet meetings and sessions of parliament, while several members in southern and central provinces have decided to leave all together. The National Movement was always a loose confederation of parties, and this is just the latest example of its disunity.
On December 17, 2011, the Iraqi National Movement (INM) announced that it would boycott parliament to protest Prime Minister Maliki’s actions against Vice President Hashemi and Deputy Premier Mutlaq. The list seemed to conform with the glaring exception of Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi who continued to head legislative sessions. At the beginning of January 2012, he was joined by six other members of the INM, Kamil al-Dulaimi, Mohammed Nasser Karbuli, Qays Shathr, Joma al-Matuti, Ahmed Jabouri, and Abdul Rahman al-Luzi. The list responded by saying they were all expelled from the party. That led three of them, Luzi, Jabouri, and Matuti, to form their own party within the INM called the Patriotism bloc. Luzi told the press that they were disillusioned with their leadership, claiming they were moving towards sectarianism, and ignoring the rank and file. He went on to complain that how could they be expelled if Speaker Nujafi was still acting as the head of parliament. Because of that, they said they would not boycott parliament, even though the rest of the list would. Keeping members out of the legislature might not have been a good plan to begin with. The body is split and divided amongst the major parties, and therefore lacks real power right now. A boycott therefore, of an ineffective branch of the government would not do much to pressure Maliki. The INM only has around 90 seats out of 325, which also meant that parliament could continue to meet without the list’s participation, again undermining their protest.
|Electricity Minister Aftan is one of several from the Iraqi National Movement that has refused to follow the party's boycott (Free Iraqi Voice)|
The Iraqi National Movement started a boycott of the cabinet as well. Again, the INM did not completely follow through with this threat. Electricity Minister Abdul Karim Aftan and Industry Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Dalli Karbuli continued to attend meetings. Five out of the list’s nine ministers allegedly wanted to end the boycott by the beginning of January. On January 9, Science and Technology Minister Abdul al-Karim al-Samarraie, Electricity Minister Aftan, and Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Turhan Mathhar Abdullah Hassan went to a session of the Energy Committee headed by Deputy Premier Hussein al-Shahristani. The next day, Electricity Minister Aftan, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Mathhar Abdullah Hassan, and Industry Minister Karbuli went to a cabinet session. Many ministers have actual power, controlling important branches of the government. They are run as personal fiefs, and play an important role in patronage for the parties. Maliki used these positions to divide and conquer the INM when the government was put together in December 2010. For all of those reasons, some of the ministers have been reluctant to follow the mandates of the rest of the list.
During the crisis, several members of the National Movement in central and southern Iraq decided to leave the list. That started on December 26, 2011, when some parts of the INM in Dhi Qar said they were leaving, and might join Maliki’s State of Law. (1) Five days later in Najaf, members of the list said they were departing as well. They, along with the defectors from Dhi Qar joined the Sons of Iraq Movement. Then on New Year’s Day, the deputy head of Babil’s provincial council, who was also the head of the INM in the province, said that he, three other members of the provincial council, and parliamentarian Qaiser Iskander Witwit were all departing the party to join a new one led by Witwit. He was an important voice in the INM, usually speaking for the list on security matters. That same day, 42 members of Allawi’s own Iraqi National List in Basra said they were withdrawing. They too joined the Sons of Iraq Movement. All these elements shared the same general complaints, not being included in decisions by the national leadership of the INM, accused the party of moving towards sectarianism, and that it had failed to achieve its national goals. The National Movement did poorly across these provinces and the south in general. Out of 119 seats for parliament up for grabs in the 2010 elections it only won 17 seats, 8 in Babil, 3 in Basra, 2 in Qadisiyah, 2 in Wasit, 1 in Dhi Qar, and 1 in Karbala. With much larger delegations from central and northern Iraq, the southern part of the list has been largely overlooked. The leaders of the INM have also been caught up in their arguments with Maliki, and with each other, which has led to all kinds of divisions within the list, which led to these latest defections.
During 2011, the Iraqi National Movement had three other splits. In February, Qutaiba Jabouri was kicked out when he vied for the vice presidency against Hashemi. Jabouri ended up joining White Iraqiya, which was formed in March by eight other parliamentarians from the INM. In that same month, six more lawmakers quit to form the Youth of Iraq Party. Like the newest defectors, they blamed the leadership of the list for them quitting, claiming that they were marginalized and ignored. These defections were slightly made up for when the Centrist Alliance that consists of the Unity of Iraq List and the Iraqi Accordance Front joined the National Movement with its ten seats in parliament. Still, all of this history showed the deep-seated problems within the INM, and helps explains the latest events.
The Iraqi National Movement is made up of seven different parties, and those divisions have led to its current problems. In the midst of its deepest fight with Premier Maliki, it is facing more dissenters and defections. Several ministers, the Speaker of parliament, and a very few lawmakers are all ignoring the party’s boycott. On top of that, many cadre members in the south and center of the country have left the National Movement. These all obviously undermine the party’s attempt to present a united front to the prime minister. They also show how many internal problems the list has. With the national leadership caught up in their battle with Maliki, they are obviously ignoring parts of the list. Some of its ministers are also interested in maintaining their positions. Conflict within the government, only brings to the fore these factions within the INM, more of which can be expected to emerge in the future. This is a major reason why Maliki has been able to stay in power, because his main opposition is weak and divided.
1. All Iraq News, “Withdrew from the Accord Movement in Dhi Qar intend to forge a bloc to join the independent and state law,” 12/26/11
All Iraq News, “Withdrew from the Accord Movement in Dhi Qar intend to forge a bloc to join the independent and state law,” 12/26/11
Aswat al-Iraq, “Wifaq Movement members resigned in Basra,” 1/1/12
Gutman, Roy, “As US troops exit Iraq, Maliki moves against Sunni rivals,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/19/11
Healy, Jack and Gordon, Michael, “Large Bloc of Lawmakers Boycotts Iraqi Parliament, Putting Coalition at Risk,” New York Times, 12/17/11
Ibrahim, Haidar, “Iraqiya’s controversial remarks over ministers’ boycott termination,” AK News, 1/13/12
- “Maliki orders to cancel open leaves for Iraqiya ministers,” AK News, 1/7/12
Al-Jawari, Fulaih, “Cracks in Iraqiya begin to open,” AK News, 1/8/12
Al Nas Paper, “Dozens of members of Allawi’s movement in Basra, withdraw them and join the movement of other,” 1/1/12
National Iraq News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS Iraqiya expels 6 of its law makers for attending Parliament’s session,” 1/6/12
- “Deputy Babel PC Chairman accuses those withdrew from the IS of attempting to hurt its political status,” 1/1/12
Al Rayy, “Alloizi announce the accession of a number of other members of the Iraq and patriots to rally in the coming period,” 1/7/12
Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 30,” 1/3/12
Yasiri, Acer, “Accord Movement in Najaf announced its withdrawal from the Iraqi List,” Radio Free Iraq, 12/31/11