Iraq voters face long wait for new government as Maliki, others jockey for power
Prime Minister Maliki and others are maneuvering for influence in the wake of the March 7 vote, results of which are being delayed by a recount and investigation of other complaints. Inability to form an effective new Iraq government could further divide the country.
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“As far as we are concerned we don’t have any red lines against anybody,” he says, referring to how the Kurdish bloc expected to be a powerbroker in the coalition-building.Skip to next paragraph
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Kurdish leaders made clear before the election that the Kurds, who have won at least 56 seats, would support whoever was prepared to offer them the most on Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
Unable to agree
With voters widely rejecting politicians who focused on religion rather than basic services, analysts say the debate has more to do with party politics than the Iraqi people.
“Really the resistance to Allawi is most pronounced at the level of the leaders and not the general population,” says Mr. Visser. “We should not forget that Allawi was able to attract hundreds and thousands of votes south of Baghdad as well – he actually has some support in most Shiite areas.”
Visser, editor of the Iraq website Historiae.org, believes both Maliki and Allawi’s supporters want many of the same things, including a strong, central government controlling the oil sector. While everyone calls for a government with more Sunni participation than the last, there are fears that a coalition that is too broad-based could be paralyzing.
“The only thing we can say with certainty is if we get this big government with all four alliances it will hardly be able to agree on anything,” Visser says. “Then you will have a big parliamentary majority but they won’t be able to use it for anything because they wont be able to agree.”
Complicating government formation are fractures within the Shiite parties themselves. Before the election, Maliki broke away from his original coalition over a dispute over how much power he should have. Talks to unify the main three Shiite parties again have failed – seemingly over the same issue, analysts said.
One of the main Shiite blocs, the Sadr movement, has been at odds with Maliki since he sent troops against their military wing in Basra and Sadr City two years ago. Inclusion of the Sadrists within a coalition would also complicate relations with the United States. Fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have fought US forces in the streets and the organization refuses to meet with or deal with US officials.
Some fear that a failure to build an effective and inclusive coalition government this time could tear the country apart.
“I believe this period is the most dangerous period here in Iraq,” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says. “I don’t want to sound alarmist but unless we get it right, unless we fix the government formation, if one group feels they have been denied their victory, that they are marginalized…they will abandon the process and that will lead to the literal division of the country.”
(This story was edited after posting to correct the spelling of Reidar Visser's last name.)
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