Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Three’s a Crowd: System Change in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 18 February 2010 11:11

In the past four weeks, the world has rediscovered the political complexities of Iraq. The continuing de-Baathification mess, which saw numerous candidates barred from the upcoming elections thanks to partisan score-settling, has demonstrated that there are still serious limits to democracy and the rule of law in the country. Journalists and commentators have focused on the systematic efforts to undermine politicians and parties hostile to the ruling coalition and its allies; some have even suggested that the plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq might be in jeopardy. What has yet to receive serious attention in this chaos is that regardless of the outcome of the de-Baathification process, the fundamental rules of government formation in Iraq are scheduled to change in less than a month’s time… Full story here.

8 Responses to “Three’s a Crowd: System Change in Iraq”

  1. bb said

    I don’t understand the reference to “majority rule”? There can be no “majority rule” unless one party wins an absolute majority of seats in the COR?

    In Iraq, the party that wins the plurality will only be able to govern in a coalition with at least two other parties, probably three. And as in other coalition governments eg in Europe, the Cabinet will be made up of ministers representing each member of the coalition?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    This simply refers to the lowered threshold of 50% instead of 67% as a basis for forming governments. It reflects a concern that is being articulated by some of the parties in the current Maliki government, in particular the Kurds, and sometimes ISCI, especially last year when they were worried that Maliki might join with the secular nationalists.

  3. bb said

    Maliki will need more than secular nationalists to be able to form a government. Logically he’ll need ISCI/Sadrists and the Kurds and either the nationalists or one of the Sunni arab parties. In other words nothing different to last time. The voting blocs aren’t going to change that much.

    btw I thought it was a bit sad, that quote from the nationalists about needing 20 Christian arabs to be a cabinet. Low muslim self esteem.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Well, in contrast to you I am not privy to the exact percentages of the results of the 7 March elections yet. Back at the time of the provincial elections last year a future parliamentary coalition on the lines I indicated was certainly within the realm of the possible. Of course it is a major difference for coalition-forming dynamics that a premier designate has greater choice than he had in 2006.

    Also, I am not sure if you got the point with those 20 Christian ministers. They could have been Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis, Sabaeans, Kurds or whatever, the point being that ethno-sectarian considerations should not be among the criteria of their selection.

  5. Reidar,
    Lower threshold for forming a government means higher susceptability to disturbance, yet the international community is showing minimal concern: On Feb 16 the rotating president of the UN security Council,
    French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud read a statement with wishful sentiments and disappointingly low tone of concern for the election process in Iraq, perhapse this is why the statement received so little attention in the media. I hope the US administration will counter by elaborating their position which answers the question: What will happen if the elections were deemed not credible?

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, I totally agree, unless Washington says something very soon its approach to human rights in Iraq will end up being about as interesting as the Chinese position on humanitarian intervention in the Security Council… So far, however, there is nothing substantial forthcoming, a little public bluster about Lami and Chalabi but no sign of willingness to use the leverage that still remains…

  7. bb said

    “Also, I am not sure if you got the point with those 20 Christian ministers. They could have been Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis, Sabaeans, Kurds or whatever, the point being that ethno-sectarian considerations should not be among the criteria of their selection.”

    A differentiation on the basis of Christianity is not sectarian?

    In the provincial elections the shia still voted overwhelmingly for the shia parties, the Sunni arabs for the Sunni arabs, and the “nationalists” for Allawi. Nothing much changed except State of Law split the old (shia)UIA vote, as it is doing in this election. The proportions when expressed nationally did not show any real shift from 2005 and is the basis of my predictions for this election.

    It will be interesting to see if the Hiwar vote still goes to Allawi even with Mutlak’s banning. If so Allawi should increase his share of the vote.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, in the example they were chosen not BECAUSE they were Christian but because Iraqis DID NOT CARE what sectarian background they had. They just HAPPENED to be Christians.

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