Interview: Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mahdi
Dr. Mahdi talked to Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf about upcoming national elections, Iraq's security and economic issues, and relations with Iraq's neighbors.
Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf sat down with Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi to discuss his efforts to build a broad political coalition for upcoming national elections, Iraq's security and economic issues, and relations with its neighbors. What follows is a transcript of their interview. (Related story: Iraq's vice president says Iraq should call on US for security help.)Skip to next paragraph
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Regarding the coalition you've formed, I understand there are discussions going on to widen it. Can you tell us about that?
There are still discussions with [Ayad] Allawi, with [Nouri] al-Maliki, with other smaller groups. And the fact that such discussions are taking place, especially the formation of a front later on after the coalition - the next step will be to negotiate, to create a ....united national front that will discuss the platform of the coming government, [the composition of] the government itself and try to be well prepared this time. If those people win, then everything will be ready, rather than discussing things later on, which you know last time caused Iraq four months of delaying, forming the government and agreeing on the platform and the program of the government.
It looks as if Prime Minister Maliki is not going to join your coalition, is he?
No, we don't know yet. Some people confirmed that he will, others say that he wouldn't.
If his demand is 51 percent of the representation, is that something you would consider?
No. This is not acceptable. It would be like joining his coalition and asking 51 percent of his coalition - no one would accept to follow others, but on the other hand all of the coalition should be open with no vetoes. As we say in the national coalition that there will be no refusal, no forced agreements - Maliki will have his chance, others will have his chances [to lead the coalition], so joining the coalition with the balanced rates will be the acceptable equation - otherwise what is the need of having a coalition?
Is your coalition wide enough, broad enough to include people like Ayad Allawi?
Yes of course. There are negotiations with Ayad Allawi and practically there are no obstacles. We have some technical obstacles. On the orientation, on the real lines and the wide policies, we [are all in agreement], but there are some technical organizational complications.
If those could be solved that would be good. If not, we'll meet at the front.
How will this election be different from the last election, and how will it be different for the parties in your coalition?
It's different from many points of view. First we witnessed some splits [along political lines].... This took place in Kurdistan - this took place in the south, in the western parts, in the north.... It's a positive split, especially when it is related to negotiating with other parties from other communities, which we did not see in the last elections. In the last elections, each of us was concentrating on his own power and his own constituency, rather than going to other constituencies to gain power from them. So we are approaching a more national policy rather than a self-aspiration policy ... because [that would mean] the Kurds would be framed by their geography, the Shiites would be within their community, and the Sunnis would be only in their community. It is a step forward. It is not a final one, but it shows that things are going forward and people are understanding the lessons, and acting accordingly.
Is one of those lessons what was widely perceived to be voters rejecting religious-based parties in the provincial elections?