News / Middle East

Iraq's Political Deadlock May be Nearing End

Representatives of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political parties meet in Baghdad, 01 Oct 2010
Representatives of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political parties meet in Baghdad, 01 Oct 2010

Iraqi politicians say once again they are close to forming a new government, seven months after inconclusive elections.  Lawmakers have had to contend with sectarian and ethnic differences, regional and international interference, and there are yet more hurdles to come.  

The long delay in putting a government together has taken a toll.  Key legislation is stalled, foreign investment is largely on hold and sectarian tensions appear to be again on the rise.

Iraqi voters, who braved the violence to take part in the March elections, have expressed frustration that politicians have been unable or unwilling to put aside their differences.  But in recent days, there have been signs that some have.  

Anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has quashed his disdain for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to back him for another term, at least temporarily.  And others, including the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council, Ammar al-Hakim, may be moving closer to doing the same.

Political system

International Crisis Group Senior Analyst Peter Harling says what makes it so difficult to form a government is the way the political system has been designed.

"There is no role for the opposition," he said. "You are either in or irrelevant.  So everyone has decisive stakes and I think that explains probably why Ammar el-Hakim, for example, who opposed the nomination of Maliki as prime minister will, in the days to come, shift his own stance.  Anybody left out loses everything.  So that makes it very difficult to find a formula in which everyone has a stake."

Inside Iraq, those trying to carve out a place for themselves include Hakkim and Sadr's Shi'ite National Alliance, Mr. Maliki's Shi'ite State of Law coalition, and Kurdish lawmakers who could play a key swing role.  And then there is the top seat-getter in the election - the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc of Shi'ite former prime minister Ayad Allawi.

Redifining roles

Harling says the delay in forming a government has favored Mr. Maliki, much to the concern of his rivals. "Maliki has taken a head start in terms of imposing his authority over the security apparatus and I think that has generated huge concern within Iraqiya, but I think also in other quarters, I think Maliki has succeeded in rallying many players in Iraq, both domestically and internationally against him.  So it is very much now an issue of how the powers of the prime minister will be redefined," he said.

With the apparent need to include everyone to get a government going, the question now becomes not just redefining the role of the prime minister, but also the president and such key ministers as oil and security.  One of the ideas being floated is to boost the powers of the president, now a largely ceremonial post held by a Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani.  Others cover how to draw Iraqiya and its strong Sunni support, up to now resistant, into the fold.

But the idea of dividing up positions in the government to accommodate various constituencies, in the style of Lebanon, has its drawbacks. 

"If they are going to argue over the Cabinet regarding which sect will get the most important portfolio and which sect has fewer population should get a weaker and less influential portfolio, then we are going to have a sectarian Iraq and not a modern, democratic state like what the Americans wanted - a democratic state that is above the sects and traditional loyalties and tribalism and clannish minds," said Said Sadek, a professor at the American University in Cairo.

"So I hope they do not argue over which sect should be represented and which sect should take what portfolio.  Let the best man win because this is in the interest of Iraq," he added.

Regional, international interference

But Sadek argues the internal differences pale in comparison to the role played by external forces.  He says that since the American invasion in 2003, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria have felt a need to help establish an Iraq that would serve their purposes.

"Even despite the fact that, on the surface, America and Iran are at loggerheads, there is a lot of understanding on the situation in Iraq.  Both sides do not want an explosion.  It is in the interest of everybody that this sectarian bomb is shut down and closed and contained," said Sadek.

The desire to finally have a leader emerge and get the first part of the process underway can be seen in the flurry of recent diplomatic overtures from U.S., Iranian and Syrian envoys.  Tehran's desire for stability is widely believed to have been translated into pressure on the Iran-based Sadr to throw his support to Maliki.   And a functioning government, even one with such enemies as Sadr, will make it easier for the United States to complete its troop withdrawal by the end of next year.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid