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Entries in Iraqqiya (2)


Iraq: What Do Latest Post-Election Power Plays Indicate? (Cole) 

Juan Cole cuts through the confusion to offer the latest developments in the post-election struggle to lead Iraq. Many useful points here, including:

1. No individual, party, or list "won" the 7 March election, since no one has even one-third of the Parliamentary seats. The battle is now to form a working coalition amongst the various parties.

2. While these maneovures include meetings between Iraqi political actors in Tehran, this does not mean that Tehran will control or dominate any emerging Iraqi Government.

3. And a point made through absence in this account: although the US has an interest in this contest, there is little sign of the Americans in these latest moves.

The Justice and Accountability Commission (formerly the Debaathification Commission), headed by Ahmad Chalabi, is moving to disqualify 6 elected candidates in the 7 March election for their ties to the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. Three of those to be banned are from the Iraqiya list of [former Prime Minister] Iyad Allawi, which would reduce his seat total from 91 to 88, making his list second in number of seats after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, which has 89 seats.

The move, by commission head Ahmad Chalabi (himself an elected MP on the fundamentalist Shiite list, the Iraqi National Alliance), will cause a lot of anger among Sunni Arabs, the main backers of Allawi's list, along with secular middle class urban Shiites.

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports that commission official Ali al-Lami let it slip that one of those to be disqualified is Hamdi Najm, leader of the National Dialogue Front in Diyala Province, who is currently in prison on terrorism charges. His party forms part of the Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi. The disqualifications will be taken to court. However, the courts sided with the Justice and Accountability Commission when it excluded candidates on these grounds in the lead-up to the election, so that avenue does not appear very promising.

But the move is not decisive in deciding the next prime minister, because who can form a government depends not on who has a plurality but on who can put together a governing coalition. It is true that the constitution requires the president to ask the leader of the single largest bloc to form a government. But if that person cannot, then another party leader would get the chance. The best analogy for Iraqi politics at the moment is Israel or Lebanon. In the 2009 parliamentary elections in Israel, Tzipi Livni's Kadima gained 28 seats and Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud only got 27. But you will note that Netanyahu is prime minister, because Shas, Yisrael Beitenu and others preferred to ally with him rather than with Ms. Livni.

I admit to a good deal of frustration with the corporate media in the United States that keeps talking about Iyad Allawi "winning" the Iraqi parliamentary elections. It just is not true. Apparently even some well informed and intelligence Americans can't understand the difference between achieving a slight plurality and winning a parliamentary election.

You need 163 seats to have a majority in the 325-member Iraqi parliament, so neither 91 nor 89 is a "win." Rather, 163 is a win. Allawi did not win and has not won and probably won't win.

The reason is that it is difficult to see how he gets to 163. He needs 72 more seats (or maybe 75 if the disqualifications go through). It is easier for al-Maliki's list, if not al-Maliki himself, to get to 163 seats than it is for Allawi, since the fundamentalist Shiites have 70 seats and they under normal circumstances will find it easier to ally with Maliki's Islamic Mission Party (Da'wa) than with the secular Arab nationalists and Sunnis that back Allawi.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that 'informed sources' told its reporters that Ali al-Adib, a leader of al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, recently met Muqtada al-Sadr in Qom, Iran, though they have not yet closed a deal. Al-Sadr has 38 seats in parliament and his bloc is the largest single group of seats in the Shiite fundamentalist Iraqi National Alliance, which has 70 seats. Then, al-Maliki is said to have returned to Baghdad from Tehran, accompanied by al-Adib and Abdul Hamid al-Zuhairi (both from the State of Law list) and Jalal al-Din al-Saghir and Hadi al-Amiri of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

Al-Maliki is said to have been among a big party of Iraqi officials in Tehran the day before yesterday. They went there, al-Hayat said, because there was too much danger of being listened in on in Iraq. Presumably what is actually being asserted here is that the US has sophisticated signals intelligence and has widely tapped phones, so that in Baghdad any attempt at coalition-formation would be immediately picked up by US intelligence. Since the US is widely thought to be backing Allawi's secular Iraqiya list, it would be undesirable from al-Maliki's point of view for them to overhear his negotiations with other lists. Thus, they went off to Iran.

Al-Hayat's source says that Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated flexibility, and demanded in return for dropping his objection to al-Maliki the release of all prisoners from his movement, and undertakings that al-Maliki would not attempt to rule single-handedly. He also wanted an agreement that al-Maliki would be fired if he attempted to overstep the decided-up course of action of the party. A Sadrist leader, Qusay Suhail, refused to comment on the Iran story, but did allow as how the Sadrists had met with representatives of al-Maliki's State of Law. The source said that so far in the negotiations the Kurdistan Alliance and the Sadr Movement have declined to put forward an alternative candidate for prime minister. So far al-Maliki is the only candidate from the Shiite parties, "and we did not sense any opposition to him." In contrast, cleric Jalal al-Din Saghir of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq insisted that ISCI would definitely put forward a prime ministerial candidate. (ISCI is actually too small to follow through on Saghir's bluster.)

Iraq Special: The Outcome of the Election --- Uncertainty

The dominant headline from the uncertified results of Iraq's national elections, released this evening, will be that former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his Iraqqiya list "won" with 91 seats, two more than the State of Law list headed by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Don't be fooled. Since no alliance, let alone single party, won even 30 percent of the 325 seats in Iraq's Parliament, here's your headline:


Iraq: The State of the Elections (Parker and Lynch)

The three weeks waiting for this preliminary outcome are only a prelude to months of bargaining, pressuring, and promising to try and force a coalition. That brings into play the Iraqi National Alliance of predominantly "religious" Shiite parties (v. the "secular" Shi'a al-Maliki and Allawi), with 71 seats, and the alliance of Kurdistan's two dominant parties, with 43.

Reidar Visser offers this useful snap analysis on

The Iraqi elections commission, IHEC, has today released the full, uncertified results of the 7 March parliamentary elections. The distribution of the seats has been specified at the entity level for all the 325 deputies in the next assembly.

The Iraqi elections commission, IHEC, has today released the full, uncertified results of the 7 March parliamentary elections. The distribution of the seats has been specified at the entity level for all the 325 deputies in the next assembly.

The differences with the situation as reported in earlier counts (and calculated in accordance with IHEC regulation 21) are minimal. The secular-nationalist Iraqiyya (INM) comes out on top with 91 seats, followed by State of Law (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki second at 89 seats, the Iraqi National Alliance at 70 seats and the Kurdistan Alliance at 43 seats (having apparently made some serious headway in the final count). The distribution of minority seats was apparently on the patternforecasted previously. [The table with distribution of seats is in Visser's original post.]

The names of the winning candidates (based on how the electorate used the open-list option to promote individuals within a list) have yet to be published; this will be done at the IHEC website and in Iraqi newspapers tomorrow. The identity of the winners of the seven compensation seats (two for each of the three big lists and one for the Kurdish list) will be withheld pending a query to the federal supreme court about the rules for their allocation to individuals.

Ayad Allawi and Iraqiyya now go strengthened into the coalition-forming process. By winning more seats than expected south of Baghdad and almost as many seats as Maliki in Baghdad, Allawi has proved that he is more than "the candidate of the Sunnis" (which was always implausible given his own Shiite background). However, the two parties that are closest to each other on many key constitutional issues (and maybe the most promising combination to get an oil law passed anytime soon), Iraqiyya and State of Law, remain at odds with each other mainly due to differences at the personal level between their leaders. In this kind of situation, probably the most logical step for Iraqiyya would be to explore the possibility of a deal with the Kurds that balances some solid concessions to Arbil with preservation of Iraqi nationalist ideals as far as the structure of government south of Kurdistan is concerned. Additional support could come either from Shiite Islamists who share the view of Iraqiyya on the importance of a centralised state in the rest of Iraq (for example the Sadrists), or, alternatively, all the small blocs in parliament joined together with Iraqiyya and the Kurds (166 seats). It is to be hoped that the ideologically contradictive scheme of a deal with ISCI (the pro-Iranian decentralist Shiite party with which Iraqiyya only shares certain ties at the personal level) will be avoided, since it would mean another oversized, ineffective government populated by parties with little in common. At any rate, ISCI now has diminishing cloutwithin INA.

Also, some uncertainty has been added to the mix due to a ruling by the federal supreme court yesterday which explicitly makes it clear that the key definition of "the largest bloc in parliament" (which is supposed to form the next government) can also include post-election bloc formation. This in turn breathes new life into the scenario preferred by Iran of the two Shiite-led blocs, INA and SLA, joining together to a single big entity, on the pattern of what happened in 2004/2005. Talks about this has come to the fore again over the last weeks as Maliki gradually realised that his ambition of going it alone, separate from the other Shiites, was not going to be fulfilled quite in the way he had foreseen. It would, however, require considerable recalibration within Shiite circles, since the Sadrists are likely to overshadow ISCI in the INA contingent, and they are not known to be keen on a second Maliki premiership. Nonetheless, the mere fact that this option is now being talked about at all signifies the big irony of these elections: Ali Faysal al-Lami, the de-Baathification director, both lost and won them to some extent. He got just a few hundred personal votes for INA in Baghdad, and will not win a seat in parliament. But through his witch hunt he forced Maliki into a more sectarian corner, and thereby prevented him from winning much-needed support north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the next procedural step is of a simpler character: The results will have to be formally certified in the Iraqi legal system. Only then will the clock for government formation start ticking in a formal sense. Upon certification of the results, the current president, Jalal Talabani, must call on the new national assembly to convene within fifteen days. At that point, the council will have to elect a speaker with two deputies. In theory, that election is separate from the government formation, although it seems likely that whoever is forming the next government will want allies to fill those posts: With the control of the parliamentary agenda that comes with them, they are going to be more important during the next four years than the office of the president, which now becomes a more ceremonial position. The new president, in turn, is to be elected within 30 days of the first parliamentary meeting. The constitution stipulates an aspiration of a two thirds majority for the election of the president but allows for a simple-majority run-off in case that requirement should prove elusive. This in turn means that it is the 163 mark that needs to be met in order to secure the election of the president and thereby get the government-formation process on track in earnest, with a deadline of another fifteen days for the president to formally charge the nominee of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government within another thirty days. In other words, if certification takes place around 1 April, a meeting of the new parliament must be held within 15 April, a new president must be elected within 15 May, a PM nominee must be identified by 1 June, and a new cabinet must be presented for approval of parliament before 1 July. The psychological deadline is likely to be the start of Ramadan around 10 August and the scheduled completion of withdrawal of US combat troops by 31 August.