Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Haydar al-Abbadi Is the New Iraq PM Candidate

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 11 August 2014 13:48

Today, what remains of the pan-Shiite National Alliance formally presented Haydar al-Abbadi of the Daawa party as their PM candidate. Abbadi will be charged by President Fuad Masum to replace the current PM, Nuri al-Maliki.

The political realities behind this move can be summarized as follows. For some weeks, pressure has been building inside Maliki’s State of Law coalition to have him changed. Finally today, factions led by Haydar al-Abbadi of the Daawa and Hussein al-Shahristani, the current deputy PM, broke with Maliki to nominate Abbadi for PM. Early reports suggests 38 Daawa MPs and 12 members of the Shahristani bloc abandoned Maliki, leaving him with the backing of only around 45 members of the original 95-member State of Law bloc. It is worth noting that the traditionally pro-Iranian Badr organization has not been enumerated among the 128 or so supporters of Abbadi.

Constitutionally and legally, today’s developments also clear the air. Until yesterday, Maliki could plausibly plead the case that the president should have charged him with forming the government before the official deadline expired. However, today’s action by the Shiite alliance showed that Maliki’s claim to represent the largest bloc no longer has any basis, because State of Law has disintegrated. The focus on the first session of parliament in the ruling of the federal supreme court from 2010 has now been superseded by events, and in any case was not based on the Iraqi constitution itself. It only reflected the opinion of the court. Accordingly, Maliki’s promise to bring the case before the Iraqi federal supreme court will be of academic interest only. Any attempt by him to challenge the nomination through other means than the court will be profoundly anti-democratic.

Haydar al-Abbadi is a former finance minister who is well liked by groups outside the Daawa and State of Law, who elected him as deputy speaker for the new parliament earlier. He will now have 30 days to present his cabinet for approval by the Iraqi parliament with an absolute majority.

23 Responses to “Haydar al-Abbadi Is the New Iraq PM Candidate”

  1. Thank you for the update, have you any ideas on what is to become of Maliki now? Will he still be able to hold any government posts or does this represent the end of his political career?

  2. My suspicion is Maliki is not the kind of person who would be happy as minister of culture after this.Split inside Daawa too acrimonious for him to preserve any role there. Would have to start new party. Main Q is whether he stays in Iraq or goes into exile.

  3. arthur said

    I don’t speak Arabic and make no claim to expertize. But I see some interesting implications of this situation that should be analysed:

    1. Assuming the reports are correct the largest party in Iraq has disintegrated and a minor figure within it has been accepted by a majority of the wider Shia coalition as its candidate for PM.

    2. This appears to be more or less explicitly on the basis of acquiescing to the chorus shouting “Maliki must go” rather than the emergence of anything resembling a new large party with a unified leadership and some sort of program.

    3. Presumably the expectation of those involved is that Kurdish and Sunni members will now join with the majority fragment of the Shia coalition to provide an absolute majority confidence vote for a more “inclusive” Ministry headed by Al-Abbadi.

    4. But there are reasons why the head of state in a parliamentary system looks to the leader of the largest party to form a government. This practice emerged at Westminister despite there being no written constitution spelling it out. It is simply a necessity in a parliamentary system. Only a large party with a clear leadership is actually able to dominate the legislature and govern. When there is no coalition able to cohere as such a party, the usual result is to hold fresh elections.

    5. Suppose that in reality there is no large inclusive coalition in Iraq that could unite behind a government with an absolute majority? Surely that possibility cannot be ignored when the dominant Kurdish party is openly for immediate independence and the Sunni parties remain basically delusional and the main Shia parties competing with Maliki’s party are the Sadrist thugs and the Supreme Council of Wannabe Iranians?

    6. Suppose then that the various factions now squabble even more intensively over who is to be included in the “inclusive” Ministry? With no single large party as the anchor and ultimate arbiter, surely that is now more likely rather than less likely?

    7. The result then could be that Al-Abbadi fails to obtain a majority and the President has to nominate a second candidate under Article 76-3.

    8. Meanwhile Maliki remains the acting Prime Minister and leader of what is still the largest actual functioning large party (though now much smaller). There is still no other party that could actually govern Iraq and those who betrayed the mandate they were given at the elections will have completely discredited themselves and been given the kiss of death by US endorsement (an obvious route to oblivion in Iraq which they seem stupid enough to want to take despite seeing what happened to Alawi).

    9. Things could remain very messy for quite a while as a result of this stupidity.

  4. Great points. Maliki’s rump list may now be smaller than the Kurdish Alliance so I don’t foresee any comeback by him through democratic means.

    With regard to Abbadi, he can follow one of two courses. I expect all Western ambassadors want him to redo the “big tent” principle that prevailed between 2003 and 2006, with all factions, maybe less the Sadrists, represented. He could also opt for a braver course of selecting only some Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni partners, based on their policy preferences and the prospect for unified policy.

    The latter alternative would be more controversial and I suspect Abbadi will go or the “safe” (but ultimately not viable) alternative of a big tent. He inspires parallels to the “zuama” leaders that have dominated parts of Lebanese politics for so long.

  5. arthur said

    Is the “Kurdish Alliance” any more a political party than the INA? Seems to me that KDP, PUK and Goran are 3 parties and the Daawa/SLC rump could still be the largest actually functional party.

    If we agree that the “big tent” is what will now be attempted and that it is “not viable” then one has to look at what’s next.

    US declaratory policy for “big tent” looks like more of the same idiocy as Biden’s idea to split Iraq.

    But perhaps it helps demobilize some of the delusional Sunnis who are fantasizing that the threat of supporting Daash and the Baath will result in more concessions to them instead of more exclusion?

    So even though it is thoroughly disrupting the Iraqi government, perhaps it will disorient the opposition even more during the extended period of confusion?

  6. Ali Sh said

    What exactly makes the Big tent principle unviable to Iraqi politics? Is it the lack consensus on major issues, i.e. Federalism, Oil, or is it simply irreconcilable ideological differences among the different factions?

  7. Salah said

    pressure has been building inside Maliki’s State of Law coalition to have him changed.
    I think not just the pressure from inside , US pressure was also there and was made heard stronger last week when ISIS move to Kurdish towns with US stepping up and starting the bombing ISIS.
    That was strong sign to Maliki, he have to go, as US officially saying that.

  8. Salah said

    Reidar Visser,

    In the news Hussein al-Shahristani, acting as foreign minister, he starting with questioning the staff for any misuse of power and corruptions
    يتولى نائب رئيس الوزراء لشؤون الطاقة حسين الشهرستاني ادارة وزارة الخارجية بالوكالة بدلا من وزيرها هوشيار زيباري،إذ علق الوزراء الكرد حضورهم إلى بغداد لأسباب سياسية.

    Pleas RV, did you think Maliki will be hold accounts to the corruptions during his terms?

  9. bb said

    Bet you anything RV the Americans have in mind a quota confessional system like Lebanon which is manipulated to give the Sunni arabs the possibility they could win an election without being vastly outnumbered by the shia – a chance for a Baath re-emergence.

    That said – do you know much about Abadi? Impressive CV to appeal to westerners. The fact the he comes from DAWA is good continuity for government.

  10. bb said

    oh, and also John Kerry is out here in Oz at the moment and did a lengthy press conference at which I’m certain I heard the words “constitutional change” mentioned for Iraq. If so, the other thing the Americans would want surely is a presidential system, not parliament – ie back to the strongman syndrome.

  11. Salah said

    وقالت الريس في حديث اعلامي إنه “لا قيمة للاتفاق بين بعض نواب دولة القانون والتحالف الوطني حول ترشيح النائب حيدر العبادي لرئاسة الوزراء”، مشيرا إلى أن “المحكمة الاتحادية حسمت الأمر بان دولة القانون هي الكتلة الأكبر عددا ولا يجوز لرئيس الجمهورية تكليف أي كتلة أخرى لرئاسة الوزراء”.

    وأضافت الريس أن “المادة 76 من الدستور العراقي تنص صراحة على أن الكتلة الأكبر عددا هي الكتلة التي تكونت بعد الانتخابات ومن خلال قائمة انتخابية واحدة والتي حصلت على العدد الأكبر من المقاعد البرلمانية”، مبينة أن “التحالف الوطني لم يقدم أي كتاب إلى رئيس الأكبر سنا لمجلس النواب مهدي الحافظ خلال الجلسة الأولى يبين انه الكتلة الأكبر عدا دولة القانون”.

    وهددت الريس بـ”اللجوء للمحكمة الاتحادية لبيان ماهية الكتلة الأكبر وأحقية دولة القانون لرئاسة الوزراء واعتبارها الكتلة الأكبر”.

  12. Salah said

    Kerry Issues Warning to Iraqi Leader

    Secretary of State John Kerry warned Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq on Monday not to interfere with the process of picking a new Iraqi leader, cautioning pointedly that a power grab would lead to a cutoff of international support.

    “There should be no use of force,” Mr. Kerry said in remarks to reporters in Sydney, where he met with Australian officials, “no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.

  13. arthur said

    According to Al Jazeera “”We made our decision, and getting 127 votes to back our candidate within the NA is very good,” said al-Uloum.” and “The document [from NA to President nominating Ibadi] said Ibadi heads the Daawa bloc within the State of Law Coalition, totalling 38 seats out of 94, while Shahristani heads a bloc of 14 independent MPs.”

    Does this mean both factions retain name Daawa or is Ibadi claiming to now lead Daawa?

  14. arthur said

    Ali Sh, the problems that make a “big tent” unviable are that a significant section of Iraqi Sunnis are not opposing the Takfiri/Baathist alliance which aims to take Baghdad and the whole of Iraq including all the oil and crush the Shia and Kurds (but which in fact can only further isolate the Sunniis under whichever fascists win the inevitable fight among them in the enclaves where they still rule Sunnis but rule nobody else).

    Only those Sunnis who actually do support the existing federal democratic constitution (which includes fair division of oil revenues and full local autonomy) can be realistically included in a government that is fighting a civil war against the others. Unfortuately those accepting democracy are still not the leadership in Sunni communities. Many of their representatives are actually demanding relaxation of reprressive anti-terrorist measures while terrorists hiding in the Sunni community are still killing hundreds and now thousands in mass murder attacks each month. They even imagine that the fact Baathists are openly allied with the Takfiris gives them leverage to press their demands for less rigorous de-baathification! Leading Sunni politicicians like the former vice-President are openly siding with the forces aiming to conquer Baghdad.

    There are also problems involving the Kurds, and the Iranian influence among Shia. But a narrow government focused on crushing the Takfiris and Baathists will unite the overwhelming majority of Iraqis to do so and spare the Sunnis from what could be yearsof misery under Takfiri or Baathist rule. A broader tent including people who want to make concessions to the enemy will only be weaker and so prolong the war and prolong the misery for Sunnis in places like Fallujah and Mosul.

    Even if it takes a generation, Sunnis will eventually choose leaders who actualy do support democracy and will join the “unrepresentativeve” Sunnis currently welcomed as participants in governments and then governments will be formed on non-sectarian policy lines. Meanwhile any “broad tent” can only be a pretense. As I mentioned in earlier response, that pretense might have some use because some Sunnis with delusions that the insurrection could help them also have delusions about the US and are more willing to fight Takfiris on the US payroll than with the “Persians”. But that is just the bright side of a period of confusion.

  15. Arthur, the report on the Shia alliance number is slightly misleading. 38 signed as State of Law (Daawa) and 12 (not 14) signed as State of Law (Mustaqillun, the Shahristani bloc). Hence Abbadi, in this document at least, does not explicitly pretend to assume leadership for the entire breakaway State of Law bloc, but rather for the Daawa faction of it.

    My fear is that the next Iraqi government will just be another oversized one, where everyone is joining just to gain some ministries for purposes of patronage. You mentioned Sunnis that flirt with ISIS. There are also some rather unsavory Shiite elements that recently declared their support for Abbadi, including as Asaebl Ahl al-Haqq and Badr.

    I sense a new Iraqi government that does not come together over unified policy, but rather because every player senses a more even contest without Maliki, with renewed opportunities for self-aggrandizement.

  16. arthur said

    Thanks Reidar. I certainly agree that another and closely related aspect of “big tent” is more patronage, cronyism and corruption (which has presumably been used to achieve the present situation) and will further weaken a government that needs to root out such factors that contributed to the Mosul decbacle and general incompetence.

    But my question was specifically about Daawa. My understanding is that Daawa was a revolutionary Shia islamist party formed in opposition to the domination of SCSI by Iranian clerics and government and taking religious inspiration from the same Lebanese Ayatollah as Hezbollah (but now switched to Sistani), led by Maliki and subsequently the core part of a wider “State of Law Coalition”, also led by Maliki.

    I am asking whether Ibadi is now claiming to speak for Daawa (eg on basis that Maliki lost its leadership and Ibadi now leads it) or is merely being identified as being from the Daawa (SLC) part of INA. Related is whether he really does speak for 38 votes (and whether Sharistani really does speak for 12 “independents”). Who actually signed what, and what does it commit them to beyond the nomination of Ibadi and presumably voting for him on first attempt. Are they even committed to vote for the Ministers he nominates?

    In the absence of a core large party I would expect squabbling over the spoils to become intractable even BEFORE a vote of confidence in a ministry (which has to be individually passed by each Minister).

  17. Salah said

    Reidar Visser
    the Shia alliance number is slightly misleading. 38 signed as State of Law (Daawa) and 12 (not 14) signed as State of Law (Mustaqillun, the Shahristani bloc). Hence Abbadi, in this document at least, does not explicitly pretend to assume leadership for the entire breakaway State of Law bloc, but rather for the Daawa faction of it

    In the end of the day, all the guys are Da’awa you like it or not only differences between them which they splits and dget diffrance faction names is the greed of the power and of course The Moll;ah in Tehran
    Let read:
    لابد من التنويه هنا الى ان الخلاف (الدعوة-الدعوة) ليس وليد الساعة وان اللهاث نحو القيادة ليس بجديد وان صراع “الاجنحة الدعوتية” يعود الى ثلاثة عقود خلت وتحديدا ما كان يسمى حينها “ابناء الجاليات” حيث كان هناك صراع على نطاق ضيق لايظهر للعامة يتمحور حول من خرجوا الى دول اوربا وبين من بقي منهم في سوريا وايران

  18. Salah said

    Apologies for the link I did posted above, There is something funny, it takes you to the main page not to the article?
    I tried to get right link looks the site done good job not to let you get the right link. If you would like to reach the full article please search for this name of it under reports title:
    الاسباب الحقيقية وراء تنحية المالكي وترشيح العبادي اسرار تنشر لأول مرة-!
    تقارير | 14 أغسطس 2014, 3:43 م | sajad |
    بقلم: رياض الحسيني

  19. arthur said

    Well I gather from latest news that Maliki has conceded defeat and will back Ibadi’s nomination to replace him. (Often reported, I assume incorrectly as if Maliki is no longer acting PM and Ibadi has already become PM).

    Presumably this means the Ibadi nomination will have votes of Maliki supporters as well as rest of INA and is now likely to quickly be endorsed. Kurds and a lot of Sunni’s are also presumably committed so it could now be overwhelming. I still suspect the orientation for “inclusive” with no actual unified majority will lead to a lot of bickerig over ministries and spoils in a “big tent”. But I no longer think that is likely to greatly delay government formation. So we are stuck with a “big tent” during a civil war. Hopefully at least the Iraqi equivalent of copperheads will be kept out, since it still a Daawa led government.

  20. That’s right. There’s not that much too write about Maliki’s announcement yesterday that hasn’t been said already. He realised his political power base was becoming reduced to family and a few party hangers-on. But he remains PM, constitutionally with full powers, until a new government has been approved by an absolute majority of the Iraqi parliament. He has not “resigned” as such. I think it is adequate to say he stepped down or aside since what he is doing is abandoning the contest for the next premiership.

  21. arthur said

    1. I don’t think Maliki has stepped down or aside. It appears he is still leader of both Daawa and State of Law coalition but has wihdrawn nomination as PM in favour of Abadi.

    2. Both the US and EU have made convincing demonstrations of bitter opposition to the Iraqi constitution and democracy in Iraq, in favour of appeasement. There is a domestic audience hostile to any action, which includes most of the US administration’s political base. So that is a plausible explanation. Although even less believable than Bush’s WMDs, Obama’s claim to only be preventing Yazidi genocide and protecting Americans in Irbil seems equally effective in paralysing opposition to what must be the beginning of a renewed commitment in Iraq.

    3. But even the US foreign policy establishment, which bitterly opposed the liberation of Iraq, the Arab spring, the Egyptian and Syrian revolutions etc could not be so stupid as to accept a terrorist state at the heart of the region. Obama’s insistence that he is only engaged in absolutely minimal defence against Daesh instead of preparing for war to destroy it in both Iraq and Syria seems inherently implausible. Unlike Bush, the Obama administration and the EU do not face any serious opposition from their foreign policy establishments to doing what so obviously has to be done and therefore should not have major difficulties turning public opinion around (although of course Obama does need to avoid admitting that he and his supporters have been wrong about practically everything).

    4. So my hope is that the theatrics are primarily aimed at demobilizing deluded Sunnis who remain bitterly hostile to democracy in Iraq but could help fight the Takfiris on the US payroll, even though not even their previous experiences of Takfiri rule was enough to make them willing to fight against it on the side of the “Persian” majority. That’s my hope. If I am wrong and the US really is as hostile to democracy in Iraq as it appears to be, things are going to get pretty grim and the Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis will remain under even worse regimes than the Egyptians and Saudis for quite a while.

    5. Above may seem a little off topic. But if in fact Maliki is still head of the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament and has merely accepted a different representative of his own party as PM then the ostentatious display of contempt for the Iraqi constitution and election results does seem somewhat “theatrical”. You get sound and fury in favour of appeasement or “inclusion”, but a Daawa led government that knows it can only unite with Sunnis who accept democracy and has to crush those who don’t.

  22. arthur said

    In support of my “theatrics” theory, it may also shed some light on the perplexing question of why the EU is emphasizing direct arms to the Kurds despite the apparent acquiescence of the central government to “interational” (including Iranian) interference in its choice of PM.

    I noticed reports that the loudly trumpeted US arms shipments to Kurds were in fact from Iraqi central goverment stockpiles, with US assistance in transport. It seems likely that the EU shipments are also with Iraqi central government approval. Certainly the Iraqi air force (including Russian jets returned recently by Iran) was ordered to assist the Kurds before the US did. On that basis it seems the media reports are deliberately conveying a false impression of supplying arms against the will of Baghdad government and governments concerned are deliberately not countering that. While not conclusive, this is consistent with my “theatrics” theory and I cannot think of any other plausible way to account for it.

    One of the restraints on some Sunni sectarians in the north was that they needed the central government’s support against the Kurds taking Kirkuk. That is no longer a relevant factor. Whether Kurdistan declares independence or not, it has already basically achieved it and both the Kurdish and Iraqi central governments have no option but to ally against the common enemy on their borders.

    BTW it is interesting that it was Kurdish communist guerillas from Syria, still listed as “terrorists” by the US, that actually escorted the Yazidis to safety, with the Barzani government now opening the border it had closed to them.

  23. It certainly appears some in the pro-Kurdish independence camp, both in KRG and Europe, are taking a more than theatrical approach to the issue of EU weapons shipments to Erbil.

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