Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It’s Allawi, or is it?

The final IHEC results for the 2010 Iraqi Parliamentary Elections are in and Ayad Allawi has pulled off a surprising win. His Iraqiya List has according to reports earned a total of 91 seats. But now comes the difficult task for the former Iraqi Prime Minister. He has to prove that he is able to organize a government ruling-coalition.

This will be made difficult by the efforts of the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki’s State of Law List finished a close second with 89 seats. This is certainly a victory for Iraqi Nationalism, as both candidates campaigned and ran as tough-on terrorism Nationalists who are able to rise above sectarian ties. The two Prime Ministers do not like each other and the close second of the Shi’a Maliki will enable him to provide stiff competition when it comes to forming a ruling coalition.

The surprise winner of the election was the unexpectedly strong showing (albeit a distant third) by the Iraqi National Alliance with 70 seats. They performed strongly throughout the Shi’a south, including wins in three provinces, but were trounced in Baghdad and elsewhere. This list combined the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq (ISCI) and BADR with the religious Shi’a clerical nationalism of Muqtada al-Sadr. They ultimately become the king-maker and will likely demand a sultan’s ransom for their support.

The logical coalition would be between Maliki and Allawi, but their personal animosity precludes this possibility. The Kurds would bring with them 43 members, but this pales to the 70 within the INA. Ultimately the Iraqi Nationalism of Maliki and Allawi unnerve the Kurds and their desire for an autonomous Kurdistan. There are 32 miscellaneous members, but as Bill Roggio notes at the Long War Journal, their disparate views make it impossible to form them as a group.

This leaves the Iraqi National Alliance in a powerful position, but even their alliance can be splintered. The Sadrists hate Maliki for his operations against the Mahdi Militia in Basra. ISCI is angry at Maliki’s for his movement away from the Shi’a bloc, but is also leery of the secularism of Allawi. Allawi’s Iraqi nationalism might appeal to the Sadrists, but no-one wants a government that ultimately rests on the irrational impulses of Muqtada al-Sadr. Allawi has reached out to Syria and Iran and might be seen as an appealing alternative to Maliki, but his largely Sunni coalition will inspire distrust in Iran and among Shi’a partisans.

The INA has seemed to indicate that any coalition with the State of Law List would come with the precondition that Maliki would NOT be the Prime Minister. While Maliki is an Iraqi Nationalist, he is first and foremost, a Maliki partisan and would be loathe to accept such a precondition.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that Maliki will find a way to form another grand Shi’a alliance with the INA to reach the required majorities in the Parliament. I find that outcome plausible, but I think an Iraqiya-INA coalition is just as likely if not more so. Wishful thinking would be for Allawi and Maliki to rise above personal animosity for the good of Iraq, but Iraq’s democracy has yet to reach that point where that is a probable outcome. There will still be a lot of drama as the situation in Iraq develops. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Virginia Meagher said...

I think expecting people with personal dislikes of each other and intense differences to rise above those issues is a lofty expectation, when our politicians cannot even have a civil conversation with one another or about one another. Oh well - at least it's a little more theatrical to watch it elsewhere rather than in our own country.