Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for November 2nd, 2010

The Ominous Calendar

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 2 November 2010 10:56

Let’s face it: There won’t be a new Iraqi government until 2011. It’s just not realistic.

Here is why. Firstly, even if the planned “summit” in Arbil later this week should miraculously succeed in creating political agreement or even a prime ministerial nominee, it would be just the beginning of the process of actually seating a government. A main problem is that the architecture of the projected agreement consists of several castles in the sky. Towering high above the rest is the idea of a beefed-up presidency, enthusiastically supported by the Obama administration, uncritically embraced by Iraqiyya – and constitutionally impossible without a time-consuming referendum first. Another issue that has yet to receive the attention it deserves is the idea prevalent among the Kurds that they have veto rights against individual ministerial nominees on “sensitive matters” (i.e., everything), especially with regard to screening them for political correctness on the Kirkuk issue. What the Kurds seem to forget is that although many Iraqi politicians are cheap, not everyone is for sale. Even in the most pro-federal Iraqi parties, they will find resistance rooted in Iraq’s complex realities that defy the crude tripartite power schema for Iraq preferred by the Kurds. Have they already forgotten the problems they had in the past with people like Hussein al-Shahristani, Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani and Abbas al-Bayati, all from the supposedly pro-Kurdish United Iraqi Alliance?

The bottom line is that the current government-formation process is on an unrealistic course, fraught with potential for future derailment. Second, take a look at the calendar! It is lined up with Islamic holidays. First there is Eid al-Adha in mid-November. Then, towards the end of November, the Shiite holy month of Muharram commences; it culminates with Ashura in the first half of December but the celebrations will keep going well into January 2011 with Arbain marking the 40-day mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein. As a consequence, politics in Iraq will inevitably move more slowly again.

In this kind of situation, as the question of the 2011 budget approaches, two other scenarios will automatically make their way onto the agenda. Firstly, if parliament follows the orders of the federal supreme court and elects a speaker, then there is nothing that prevents the current Maliki government from continuing to operate for a long time. The fiction that it has a “caretaker status” would finally become deconstructed for the rest of the world and with an elected speaker its constitutional status would not differ one iota from, say, its status in March 2008. Secondly, once this is realised by those who dislike the current government, the only scenario that can do something effective about the problem – i.e. dissolution of the current parliament based on an absolute majority and fresh parliamentary elections – will again come to the fore.

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Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 35 Comments »