Iraqis greet new government with feelings of relief, betrayal
Many who voted for the Iraqiya coalition thought Iyad Allawi won March elections. Now, with him and his coalition sidelined, they feel cheated – and warn of renewed sectarian violence.
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“It’s not that our hopes have been dashed – they were already dashed,” said his partner Rothan. “We want Americans to know what is happening to us – the reality of our streets. Don’t believe what they tell you.”Skip to next paragraph
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In the streets of the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Athamiya on Friday, shoppers were buying new clothes for upcoming religious holidays.
“The government encourages thieves and puts people in prison,” said Huda Abdul Samad, an office worker shopping with her daughter. She said she voted for Iraqiya because she wanted to move away from sectarianism but was disappointed both by the party not being given a top post and by the walkout in parliament.
“We were betrayed,” she said.
One month to form a cabinet
Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts – some of which will likely go to Iraqiya – and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Moqtada Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran.
“I don’t think the government is pro-Iran at all nor will any government be pro-Iran. I think this is a government that Iran wanted but that’s another thing altogether,” said Joost Hilterman, of the International Crisis Group. “They said from the beginning they wanted an inclusive government but they always wanted token Sunnis and this is probably what they will end up with.”
He said in a telephone interview that he did not expect the government to last long, nor would this be the last Iraqiya walkout.
“It’s highly unstable, deeply polarized, and if Iraqiya feels it is not getting what it considers a fair share of power from Maliki then they will have no commitment to it,” he said.
Sectarian violence, or progress?
In Athamiya, Amil Jalil stood outside his men’s clothing store Castle Man, chatting to a friend.
“Iraqiya had a constitutional right to form the government and other people circumvented it,” he said, echoing the political bloc’s interpretation of Iraq’s elastic constitution. The young man said he believed that if Iraqiya isn’t given the power it deserves in government formation, it could reignite sectarian violence.
“Not everyone is peaceful. There are people who instigate violence,” he said. “If there are interests are threatened they will instigate violence.”
In an alleyway, Abu Nidhal had hung up rows of baby clothes in cellophane wrappers. A weary-looking father of four, the stall owner talked of schoolteachers working at any job they could find in the wholesale market. “Iraqis are oppressed and wounded,” he said. “I hope that by the grace of God they will sit and reach an agreement. If there is an agreement then Iraq will move forward.”
Sahar Issa contributed to this report.