The solution to the Iraqi political crisis will be through the consensus of the Shiite forces on the Prime Minister
The International Crisis Group (INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP) said – in a report it recently published – that although the recent Iraqi elections did not result in a fundamental change, they did bring about a change in the balance of power in Parliament, and the most likely outcome is an alliance that can maintain the status quo, no on the social ladder.
The report’s author, Heib Hegel, stated that politics in Iraq is still ill after 18 years of the American invasion, and the elections that took place on October 10 last are the only tangible result of the popular protests that swept the country in 2019 and lasted two years.
Hegel reported in her report Many details about the new electoral system, the conduct of the elections, the numbers of registered people, the percentage of those who voted, the number of seats obtained by each party or bloc, comparing them with the results of the previous elections and explaining the cases of winning and losing.
I also wrote about the complaints submitted by some of the losing parties, and the violence that took place after the results were announced.
She said that the most logical possible outcome of the elections is a ruling coalition to form a government that is not expected to last long, adding that no party in the political elites has an interest in disrupting the status quo, and that the next ruling coalition will be inclusive with the participation of all forces, in the hope of maintaining peace political. The social peace is another issue.
She pointed out that among the new arrivals: the “Extension” party, which emerged from the October protests. Aside from its main base in the southern province of Nasiriyah, the party won seats in southern and central Babil and Najaf with a total of 9 seats.
And about the formation of the new government, Hegel says that it will certainly take a long time. Contrary to what is expected to some extent, the large margin of victory for Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr (he won 73 seats out of 329 seats according to preliminary results) makes it unlikely that he will be able to form a majority government that excludes former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (34 seats) or Fatah coalition, angry at its stinging defeat (17 seats, after it had 48 seats).
She added that the exclusion of these parties from power will push them towards the formation of opposition forces, which have armed arms.
Consensual prime minister
The article also considered that even if Sadr’s victory is confirmed and he is able to form the largest bloc in parliament, he will not want to assume the responsibilities of the government alone and risk taking all the blame for any failure, so it is more likely that Sadr will push a prime minister who is consensual with his Shiite rivals forward, than insisting. One of his supporters will take the lead.
She considered that the process of government formation is more complex than simply distributing ministerial positions, as it includes shares of key positions (the so-called special grades) in the state bureaucracy and influence on financial institutions such as the central bank, as well as administrative roles in the executive branch that has influence on policy-making.
He added that if the Shiite parties come close to a satisfactory agreement across these levels about where to place their loyalists, the competition – most likely between al-Sadr and al-Maliki – over who can form the largest bloc in parliament, and thus nominate the prime minister, will be less important in forming a new government.
He stated that it is unlikely that alliances prior to the elections, such as the alliance between al-Sadr, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Progress Party led by dissolved Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, will be translated into the largest parliamentary bloc at the expense of other Shiite parties.
Al-Halbousi and the KDP will look closely at the inter-Shia talks, and may find that a consensus government that includes the main Shia parties is the best way to secure their own interests.
For example, one of the priorities of the Kurdish parties in Baghdad is to settle the question of disputed territories (land claimed by both the federal government and the Kurdish regional government). Al-Sadr has little influence in these areas, and the Hashd controls a large part of the land.
Al-Halbousi will similarly consider how to best consolidate his gains. Since he is virtually unrivaled in the Sunni camp, he may seek to take a leadership role in calling for increased autonomy for the Sunni regions, similar to the status of the Kurdistan region in federal Iraq.
But both Sunnis and Kurds will wait for the dust to settle in the Shiite camp before clarifying their demands on positions, such as who should be the president and speaker of parliament, and other positions they are supposed to get under the unwritten power-sharing formula in post-2003 Iraq, which entrusts the prime ministership to the Shiites. And the presidency of the republic for the Kurds and the presidency of the parliament for the year.
Thus, the formation of the government is unlikely to deviate from traditional bargaining, and will be at least inclusive of political elites rather than exclusion, in order to maintain political peace, and therefore will be based on the same unsustainable equation that brought down the government during the popular protests.
Having to form a government to please everyone, it can – once again – be ineffective and unable to embark on much-needed reforms.
Hegel said that what is new in the equation is the entry of a large number of independent parties and candidates into Parliament, and these do not intend to join the government. For the first time, the Legislative Council will have an opposition of 40 to 50 parliamentarians, but this small group – mostly politically inexperienced movements and individuals – is unlikely to form a united bloc that can withstand the pressure of established parties seeking to maintain the status quo.
At best, they will be able to challenge certain government policies and advocate for alternative laws as ways to retain the confidence of their constituents until the next election.
The patience of the Iraqis
The writer concluded that while high oil prices will help the new ruling coalition survive, the growing impatience of Iraqis with mismanagement will make this alliance fragile in the face of external shocks, whether related to security, the economy or the environment.
Crises – such as the severe shortage of safe water in Basra in 2018 – could spark public unrest, and this time parliamentarians will echo the voices in the streets.