Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for April 15th, 2010

What Does It Take To Be a Kutla?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:03

It is a fascinating replay of July 2009. Back then, during the course of a single day, three different Shiite politicians announced three different days for the launch of the new Iraqi National Alliance (INA) – all of them ultimately proved to be wrong. Yesterday was no different. Different INA leaders offered different timelines and different explanations for the delay in the much-anticipated merger of INA and the State of Law alliance (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki, with some saying the formal launch was “imminent” and only subject to clarification of “banal technicalities” and others talking about several days and negotiations being at “a very early stage”. One wonders how this broad range of opinions will play out when the anticipated monster alliance will start negotiations outside the Shiite Islamist bloc with the aim of forming a government!

Obviously, the chief obstacle concerns the question of premiership. Maliki probably knows that the whole objective of the merger scheme is for the resultant INA/SLA bloc to claim the right to premiership and then to give it to a bloc member other than himself. This is the reason why Maliki keeps seeking for other solutions, though sadly they appear to involve rather futile attempts at challenging the results instead of exploring possible alternatives with Iraqiyya and Ayad Allawi (who just like him risks marginalisation in a Shiite–Kurdish dominated government project where the votes of Iraqiyya aren’t strictly speaking needed).

The other item that may postpone any successful merger has to do with the criteria for achieving kutla-hood, i.e. satisfying the requirements for being identified as the “biggest bloc with in the parliament in numerical terms”. The much-cited federal supreme court ruling on this subject is disconcertingly short on detail, and only speaks more broadly of the need to have a “single-entity” form (kiyan wahid). However, Iraqi parliamentary tradition as it has developed since 2005 offers more specifics. In particular it is clear that every kutla needs to have a leader or ra’is. Such leaders are mentioned in the parliamentary bylaws of 2006, and, more importantly, in practice they have become quite significant because of a number of decisive meetings that have been held at the level of bloc leaders. In these meetings, the norm has been one leader per bloc, for example Fuad Masum for the Kurdistan Alliance, the late Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim for the United Iraqi Alliance (succeeded in 2009 by Jalal al-Din al-Saghir), Hassan al-Shammari for Fadila once they broke away from UIA, and so on.

Presumably, the need to agree on a bloc leader forms another complicating factor for the INA/SLA merger, since they will have to agree on a single person. Also it is interesting that Iraqiyya still seem to believe that they may have a degree of leverage in the PM question through the Sadrists, with some reports even hinting that the delay of the SLA/INA merger was caused by a decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to hear a last-minute appeal from the Iraqiyya delegation currently visiting Iran! But most of all, the next steps may depend on the decisions of Nuri al-Maliki, who is right to ask himself why he should be forced into a political suicide so soon after having received more votes than any other Iraqi politician.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, UIA dynamics | 48 Comments »