Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Towards a Political Earthquake in Basra?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 27 April 2007 15:49

The political situation in Basra has been tumultuous for some time. But for the first time since January 2005, serious questions have emerged about the internal stability of the governing coalition in Iraq’s most important oil city.

In January 2005, the Fadila party won control of the provincial council in Basra, by establishing an alliance with three other parties and thereby sidelining the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Until now, the junior coalition partners have stood shoulder to shoulder with Fadila during its various challenges – whether from SCIRI, the central government, or, more recently, from Basra supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The Harakat al-Daawa (a breakaway faction of the Daawa movement) has been particularly supportive of Fadila’s campaign to establish Basra as a small-scale federal region, either on its own, or along with its two neighbouring governorates.

This week, there have been claims that Fadila’s three coalition partners (the secular Wifaq, Harakat al-Daawa and another “independent” Islamist party) have entered into a new “moderate” alliance (Al-Wasat), separate from both Fadila and SCIRI. This coincided with renewed calls by SCIRI for the Fadila governor of Basra to resign. Importantly, today, sources supposedly speaking for the newly formed Wasat have told reporters that they too demand the governor’s resignation.

If confirmed, this could mean the end of Fadila rule in Basra. However, according to Iraqi law (which in this case means CPA order no. 71 on local government), dismissing the governor would require a two-thirds majority, or 28 out of 41 assembly seats. Currently, SCIRI with its coalition partners control around 20 seats, and the newly formed Wasat bloc holds 9 seats – if the bloc exists, that is. In other words, the entire Wasat coalition would have to abandon Fadila if any change were to be brought about.

There is much to suggest that there is not yet any consensus on this: the “sources” from al-Wasat were unnamed, and Fadila sources deny that any move to unseat the governor is underway. In fact, one of the putative Wasat members (the Tajammu‘ ‘Iraq al-Mustaqbal, which holds two seats on the local council) denied having any connection whatsoever with the new “bloc”. SCIRI will probably try to play up the confused situation as much as possible, but until there is a clear two-thirds majority opposed to Fadila, the current governor may well survive in his somewhat precarious position.

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