Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for June 7th, 2011

100 Days: Maliki’s Frustrations and Unrealistic Dreams

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 22:37

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is getting frustrated with “national partnership” and power-sharing – again. His media statement today, timed to coincide with the end of the “100 days” announced by him in late February as a window for improving government performance, echoed similar remarks by him two years ago following his success in the local elections in January 2009. Back then, he became the first Iraqi politicians to craft a critique of the concept of an oversized national government unity. In Maliki’s view, a “political majority” cabinet – in which some groups would be deliberately left “outside the tent” – offered better prospects in terms of efficiency and governance.

Maliki’s specific point of criticism this time is that the “interference of the political blocs in the work of government” creates problems. Not only that, the interference is such that it constitutes “dictatorship in the guise of national partnership”! Today, he went on to say that the idea of national partnership is nice in theory but that it sometimes comes at the expense of effective government.

The problem in all of this is, firstly, that Maliki himself must shoulder considerable responsibility for the current situation. Back in November 2010 he agreed to chairing an oversized government and played a key role in making it really big, most recently by insisting on three vice-presidents in order to accommodate his own candidate (Khudayr al-Khuzaie). Secondly, his talk of a “political majority” is really a euphemism. Back in 2009 he explicitly talked about bringing together parties that shared a common vision of government, but in recent months he has explicitly referred to  ethno-sectarian quotas (“the defence ministry is for the Sunnis”) and has made it clear that his “political majority” really means another tripartite ethno-religious compact – with the “Sunnis” represented through others than Iraqiyya (Wasat, White Iraqiyya and possibly breakaway elements of Iraqiyya).

More importantly, though, Maliki’s talk of alternatives to his own cabinet seems rather unrealistic in the current situation. Significantly, when it came to getting Khuzaie approved, Maliki had to rely on the votes of Iraqiyya and Hashemi, making it painfully clear that his so-called “political majority” had no existence as an alternative to Iraqiyya in parliament. If an alternative majority had existed, of course, Maliki would have found loyal security ministries and rushed them through parliament long time ago.

Indeed, Maliki’s recents hints about a government resignation comes across as something of a bluff. Dissolving parliament and having new elections seems too risky, and is mostly something that Ayad Allawi of Iraqiyya keeps focusing on. But the other alternative is risky, too. For the government to resign the prime minister – Maliki himself – would have to step down, and once more the president would have the task of appointing a new PM designate in accordance with article 76 of the constitution. Would Maliki feel sufficiently secure that the Kurds would not turn elsewhere or use the opportunity to extract another 10 conditions or so for supporting his next government? Perhaps his reported appointment today of Falih al-Fayyad of the Ibrahim al-Jaafari branch of the Daawa movement as deputy minister for national security tells the true story. It seemed more like a turn inwards than a sign of newfound confidence towards bold and new solutions.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, UIA dynamics | 6 Comments »