Two options emerge for majority government in Iraq

June 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Nuri al-Maliki, Hadi al-Amri, Ammar al-Hakim, Muqtada al-Sadr, Haidar al-Abadi

Nuri al-Maliki, Hadi al-Amri, Ammar al-Hakim, Muqtada al-Sadr, Haidar al-Abadi

 

Yassen Taha

Yasin Taha

Yassen Taha

The parliamentary election in Iraq ended with disarray and exchange of tirade, due to the claims of fraud and rigging the results. However, such developments did not prevent the winning parties to communicate and start negotiating secretly to form a government.

Bilateral and multilateral meetings in Baghdad’s green zone and the Kurdistan region, along with neighbouring Kuwait, coupled with the statements by bloc authorities, seem to produce two options to form the ‘largest bloc’ in parliament. This is the result of not having a decisive winner, as the majority was won by ‘Saeroun’ with 54 setas, which translates to only 16,5% of the total 329 parliament seats.

The core of the first option includes Muqtada al-Sadr with the current prime minister Haidar al-Abadi, which came third in the election with only 42 setas, while developments hint at Ammar al-Hakim joining them with 19 seats.

The option is nothing new, as it stems from the past understandings of al-Sadr and al-Abadi, which all started from the time where al-Abadi grew enough influence to stand up to the plans of his rival Nuri al-Maliki who was manoeuvring to earn the third tenure in the summer of 2014.

The core of the first option includes Muqtada al-Sadr with the current prime minister Haidar al-Abadi, which came third in the election

al-Sadr publicly praised the bravery of al-Abadi for his stance and stood beside him in some significant episodes of his premiership. A number of meetings in Karbala and Baghdad brought the two leaders closer. However, the election parted their ways, with each leaving the door open to the other in the hope of rejoining if suitable. The surprise of ‘Saeroun’ winning the majority, and waning a-Abadi’s influence after the election, made a heavy burden for al-Abadi, as the total support from al-Sadr is no longer a sure thing. He can no longer pretend to be a compelling candidate as well, especially after al-Sadr announced the governor of Maysan “Ali Dwaiyi” to be their candidate for the premiership.

Kirkuk 12 May 2018, the general voting procedure in the Iraqi parliamentary election. Photo: Karwan Salhi

Kirkuk 12 May 2018, the general voting procedure in the Iraqi parliamentary election. Photo: Karwan Salhi

Such a union could face various hurdles, most significantly the election results. However, the common ground between al-Sadr and al-Abadi expands beyond their differences, the two oppose involving Iraq in the regional tension, agree on restricting Iran’s involvement in Iraq, approve a more open relationship with Arab countries, and, although secretly, they are on the same page when it comes to preventing Nuri al-Maliki or a candidate from him, from retaining premiership. Meanwhile, the spokesman of al-Abadi’s bloc has often remarked that al-Sadr’s bloc is the closest to prime minister’s for government formation.

The common ground between al-Sadr and al-Abadi expands beyond their differences, the two oppose involving Iraq in the regional tension

The leader of Hikmah bloc, Amar al-Hakim, is expected to join a possible alliance between al-Sadr and al-Abadi with his 19 seats, particularly after leaving the umbrella of the Iranian-supported the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

al-Hakim and al-Sadr, both heirs to influential families, met in Najaf in less than a week after the election. al-Hakim media outlets considered the meeting as historical, which followed by another meeting in Baghdad. They also joined together when they went to Kuwait, on the pretext of strengthening Iraq’s relationship with its neighbour, but some leaked reports claimed that they had discussed forming a front, with the support of Arab countries and the approval of the US. However, media outlets from al-Sadr and al-Hakim both denied such leaks and analysis.

The unity of al-Sadr and al-Abadi is awaiting some nods of approval, including the approval of the international community, and settling the conditions set by al-Sadr.

However, the second option does not wait, which consists of the commanders of the Popular Mobilization Forces and the leader of the Rule of Law, Nuri al-Maliki.

The building of Iraqi parliament in Baghdad. Photo: Parliament media

The building of Iraqi parliament in Baghdad. Photo: Parliament media

The second option, including Fatih (47 seats) and the Rule of Law (25 seats) blocs, aims at gathering the majority of Sunnis and Kurds to be able to appoint the prime minister. They bet on winning some parliamentarians from the al-Abadi bloc, as the Fazila bloc (8 seats) and Intifaz bloc (3 seats) if they manage to form the potential alliance in the first place. 

This possible alliance is close to Iran, and has opened the door to the Kurdish ruling parties of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It also enjoys a history of joint work and sharing with another influential leader, Ayad Allawi, with 21 seats. Observers do not find it farsighted for such an alliance to emerge, as alliances in Iraq do not give way to ideologies, discourses and political principles, but agreements and personal factors do the job more often, along with the external intervention.

The second option, including Fatih and the Rule of Law blocs, aims at gathering the majority of Sunnis and Kurds.

The process of government formation is not merely an Iraqi issue, as many parties venture on the negotiations between the US and Iran on the green zone of Baghdad and Erbil in the Kurdistan region, expecting them to reach an agreement to form the next Iraqi government to their favour. Such an option, which is often exercised secretly, and sometimes publicly, is resulted from the meetings of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk, and Iran’s commander of the Quds Force Major General Qasem Soleimani. Kuwait is now on the line through receiving the Iraqi leaders, as Ankara is eager for some presence through its allies and friends (Khanjar and al-Nujaifi) in the Iraqi government.

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