Without Coalition, Maliki Is Sure to Fail

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interview with Hossein Royvaran
Expert on Middle East Issues

Parliamentary elections in Iraq are over, but controversies continue to surround the composition of the next government as well as possible coalitions that may take shape among various political groups. This trend has been experienced by all democracies that are based on a parliamentary system. However, a new development which is apparently going to happen in Iraq in this regard is formation of a coalition among Iraqi Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, rumors of which have been circulating for a while. This course of event would not be compatible with the nature of associative democracies. Associative democracies – also known as associationalism or associational democracy – is a form of political system based on consensus and coalition in which coalitions that take shape among various political groups do not have their roots in political beliefs, economic ideas, or even social and cultural similarities of those groups, but rather stem from similarities in ethnic origins, language, religion or a religious denomination. For better analysis of the existing situation in Iraq, the following interview has been conducted with Hossein Royvaran, an expert on Middle East issues.

Q: Recent reports had it that the supporters of [the Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada] Sadr, the supporters of [the former Iraqi prime minister, Ayad] Allawi, and the Kurdistan Alliance have agreed to form a coalition. Is it actually possible for them to form such a coalition?

A: I have heard nothing in this regard, but I think even if such a coalition is established in reality, it will not survive for a long period of time. The reason is that Iraqi Kurds are following their own specific strategy and most of their political activities are focused on increasing the powers of the local government of Kurdistan and becoming more autonomous. At the same time, Mr. Allawi and Sadr are basically opposed to this strategy and seek the unity of the entire Iraq. As such, they give the priority to strengthening the national unity among all Iraqi groups. Therefore, such coalition may take shape under the present circumstances and on the basis of short-lived necessities, but it is not probable that this kind of coalition will last long and nobody can expect a coalition consisting of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds to last for long.

Q: [The incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki and his State of Law Coalition are currently faring better than the previous elections and their votes have increased from 89 to 96. What is your opinion about the situation of this political current?

A: Mr. Maliki is currently experiencing favorable conditions and, as you said before, his alliance has won 96 out of 326 parliamentary seats. The problem, however, is that any coalition centered on the three main posts of prime minister, president and parliament speaker, should take place within the framework of a package among three main Iraqi political groups, which include Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. In more accurate terms, to become president of Iraq, you need to win two-thirds of the parliamentary votes, that is, over 240 votes. However, to become prime minister, you only need 50 percent of the votes plus one vote. Now, can Mr. Maliki be sure of having won the prime minister’s post in view of the number of votes he has gained? It is obvious that the answer is negative. To determine the situation of the aforesaid three posts, a coalition with 165 parliamentary seats, and in more correct terms, 243 seats, must take shape. Therefore, although Mr. Maliki is the biggest winner of recent elections, he will only become prime minister when he is the biggest winner in making coalitions as well. I mean, he must form an alliance with all Shia groups in order to strengthen his own standing. This is necessary because under the present circumstances, if the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or Al-Muwatin (The Citizen) movement, or the followers of Sadr, also known as Al Ahrar Bloc, form a coalition with Sunnis or Kurds, they would be able to determine the prime minister and Maliki will lose ground to them. Mr. Maliki can grasp the power once he has all the Shia groups rallied behind him and use their leverage. Therefore, under present circumstances, although he has the biggest fraction in the parliament behind him, Maliki still needs to form a well-calculated coalition in order to stay at the helm of the Iraq’s political power structure.

Q: Under the existing conditions and given the Islamic Republic of Iran’s influence in Iraq, can one hope that Tehran will be able to provide the ground for the establishment of a coalition between [Sayyid Ammar] Al Hakim [the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq] and Maliki through consultations with the two sides?

A: In case of a coalition with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or Al-Muwatin movement, Maliki would not need a coalition with Sunnis or Moqtada Sadr anymore. Even under the present conditions, if a coalition takes shape among the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Sunnis, and Kurds, they can establish the new government. Therefore, under present conditions, the issue of forming coalitions is a fundamental issue because according to the Iraqi constitution, the country’s president can be elected by winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats while the prime minister and parliament speaker would only need half of the votes plus one vote. Therefore, Mr. Maliki does not have to necessarily enter into a coalition with Shia groups. A best case scenario, however, is that Maliki succeeds to convince all Shia groups to support him and form a coalition with them. In that case, and when the new government is established, it would certainly face the least possible amount of challenges and problems.

Q: How do you see the future outlook of developments related to the establishment of the new Iraqi government? What perspective is conceivable with regard to this process?

A: After the results of the recent elections were made public, Mr. Maliki announced that the National Iraqi Alliance, which encompasses all Shia parties, should become more active and turn into a political organization. If the National Iraqi Alliance is actually turned into a political body and Shia groups become more organized under its umbrella, the situation will be better for all Shia people. In that case, Mr. Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, Mr. Sadr’s Al Ahrar Bloc, the Supreme Council of Iraq and Al-Muwatin movement, as well as Fazilat Party and Islah Party, which are smaller Shia parties, will be organized under that coalition and will enter talks with other groups with a unified position. Naturally, this issue can further bolster the position of Shias in the power structure of the country. It was a good measure that the main winner of elections, that is, Mr. Maliki, took by announcing that the Shia coalition should further expand. This position indicates the existence of some sort of political rationality in the Arab country. If this rationality is extended to all aspects of the executive power in Iraq, I believe that it will speed up the process of forming coalitions as well.

Key Words: Iraq,Parliamentary Elections, Coalition, Iraqi Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Iran’s Influence, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Al-Muwatin, Al Ahrar Bloc, Royvaran

Source: Khabaronline News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: JAM News

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