Political deadlock continues in Iraq - GulfToday

Political deadlock continues in Iraq


A voter holds an inked finger at a polling station in Kirkuk, as Iraqis go to the polls to vote in the parliamentary election, in Iraq. File/Reuters

The influential Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, who is opposed to Iran and the United States, had asked his 75 members of parliament (MPs) to resign in the hope that an alternative government can be formed. In the 329-member House, Al-Sadr’s party has the highest number – it has improved its position from 73 to 75 in last October’s election – but it looked impossible for him to form a government with other pro-Iranian Shiite factions. It is not clear how the Al-Sadr blocking vacating the seats will facilitate the formation of a government. According to the election law, if a member vacates his or her seat in parliament, the person with the next high number of votes will get the seat. Al-Sadr still has a militia, Saraya Salam, under his command, and its presence could create conflict on the streets. He had a tripartite alliance with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani and a coalition of Sunni parliamentary groups, the Sovereignty Alliance (al-Siyada). But without the other Shiite groups, which lean towards Iran, no government could be formed. The three groups including the independents called Saving the Homeland have 180 seats in the parliament, but they need 220 seats or two-thirds majority to elect the president, which is an essential preliminary.

Al-Sadr’s main rival, the Iran-backed Coordination Framework Alliance (CFA),which is the umbrella organisation of the Shiite groups, Popular Mobilisation Forces militia, has boycotted election for a president because it wants an agreement with Sadrists that will give it a say in the choice of the president. The president must be a Kurd according to the constitution, but there is no unanimity between the two Kurdish parties, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The Homeland Alliance agreed to nominate Interior Minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government , Rebar Ahmed, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan stuck to the incumbent, Barhan Saleh.

Experts are not sure whether the way out of the impasse is to call for fresh elections because the fear is those who got elected may not win if the elections are held again. According to Iraqi political analyst Ali al-Baider, “The major political blocs have the ability to find a solution to the deadlock, but there is no serious will to do so.” He said, “As always, Iraqis are the big losers of the political process and the governments that have come since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. We (Iraqis) are still paying the bill of the current parliament failure, and we are entering into an unknown future.”

Abdulamir al-Mayahi, leader of National Alliance, which has four MPs, said, “Not forming the government means no budget to provide jobs, infrastructure services, and other things. The summer is coming; water and electricity shortages will start once again unless there’s a new government to do something about it.” Nisan Al-Zayer said that there are any number of possibilities if a compromise can be struck: an agreement between the two Kurdish parties over the presidential nominee, Al-Sadr making a deal with pro-Iran CFA. “Any scenario is possible. There is always the potential for surprises at any time.”

It is to be seen whether Al-Sadr’s latest gesture of vacating his bloc’s 75 seats in parliament would lead to any surprising solution. Right now it does not appear that there will be an end to the impasse. The pro-Iran Shiite groups, the Sunni alliance and the two Kurdish parties are nowhere near any kind of understanding. And it does raise the basic question, as in the case of Lebanon, about the Iranian factor in Iraqi politics. Can the pro-Iran groups in Iraq and Lebanon look inward and find solutions that are relevant to their respective countries.


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