Monday, December 19, 2005

On the way to a new government…

*Also posted on Pajamas Media.

The happiness that accompanied the elections has rapidly turned into concerns and anxiety. Voters now worry about the future of their votes and the amount of representation they’re going to get through the lists they voted for.

The IECI stressed repeatedly that no results should be considered official until the commission itself announces the final results but still, numbers and percentages keep leaking from different sources, including people in the commission.

The worries of voters are being fueled by the announcements that keep coming from this or that list declaring “smashing victories” here and there.

Some lists are taking partial results that leak from a single polling center and generalize them over an entire province to give the impression that they have won. Of course none of this can be confirmed or denied until all votes are counted and sorted out.
For example, the UIA claimed two days ago that they ranked first in Diyala but one day after that al-Sabah released another unofficial count that said the UIA won only 13% of the votes in that particular province.

However, partial results can still give an idea of how many seats each of the major lists is going to get and by combining the various estimates coming from different regions it looks like that the UIA is till going to be the biggest bloc in the parliament while the second largest bloc will most likely be the National Accord Front followed by the Kurds and Allawi’s block 3rd and 4th respectively with the difference between seat-totals for the latter three expected to be rather small.
However it’s possible that the latter three will swap places. Again with little differences.

It seems now that the UIA has won around 75% of the seats allocated to the nine provinces where a She’at majority lives; this stands for some 60 seats. Another 25 are expected to come from Baghdad in addition to 10-15 seats of the compensatory seats. So a total of 100 seats is not at all far from the reach of the UIA which will qualify them to have the new PM selected from amongst them.

The National Accord Front on the other hand is currently leading the race in four provinces-Mosul, Salahiddin, Diyala and Anbar- and is also ranking 2nd or 3rd in Baghdad and is also expected to gain a few compensatory seats.
Allwi’s list apparently hasn’t achieved a majority in any particular province but has also ranked 2nd or 3rd in many provinces including Basra, Mosul and Baghdad.
Moreover, Allawi has won by far in the voting that took place in Syria and Jordan.

The Kurdish alliance will certainly win 40+ seats from the three Kurdish provinces, Kirkuk, Baghdad and compensatory seats.

Now what will the shape of the new government be like? This is not an easy question to answer right now and all we can offer is to discuss the different possibilities…

The UIA wish they could form the government on their own without help from other parties, but this will require the majority-138 seats-which is not possible now which means they will have to bring in more parties.
Jafari and other UIA figures are saying that they want to include all political spectrums in the government that reflects national unity and they are sending hints and invitations to other major lists like the Kurds and the Accord Front asking them to join the UIA in the future government.
No response to this invitation came from the Accord Front who seem more inclined to allying with Allawi.

Allawi will in no way ally with the UIA, even last time after the January elections, his bloc preferred to stay out of Jafari’s government and now he wants to be the new PM and the UIA will never accept that. There are many reasons to think that neither Allawi, nor the Accord Front will join the UIA but probably the Kurds-who haven’t spoken much about their plans yet-will consider doing so.

There’s yet another alliance brewing, that’s the possible one between Allawi and the Accord Front but these two will also fail to reach the essential 51% majority alone, so will try to attract the Kurds too.

Actually it is now in the hands of Kurdish politicians to define the shape of the government; if they unite with the Accord Front and Allawi they will collectively have something between 120-140 seats which qualifies them to form the government if the UIA failed to gather enough support.
Anyway, I expect the Kurds to remain silent during the initial negotiations and they will wait for offers to come and they will accept the best offer from what’s proposed.
Their-the Kurds-decision will be affected by a number of factors; their geographical and economic proximity with the Sunni Arab region is one. Another is the issue of Kirkuk which the Kurds have always complained from the lack of cooperation from Jafari’s government in this regard.

If the Kurds, Allawi and Accord Front unite to for a government we will face another very important question; will the UIA accept the idea of being out of power? Will the UIA accept the position of opposition?
I think not…
So what’s the UIA going to do?
To prevent being out of power, the UIA will either send generous offers to revive their alliance with the Kurds and dominate the government again or if they fail to do so, they will probably accept a relatively smaller role in a multi-partisan government but with the PM being from the UIA.

Talbani said he will not accept being president again if the president’s authorities remain as little as they are now and this will make reaching agreements even harder this time.

The Sunni do not want to be on the opposition side this time; they want a decent role in the government so they will ally with whoever gives them a satisfactory share. Of course the sectarian difference with the UIA cannot be overlooked here.

A government with all the four blocs in will prolong the “quota” system of distributing ministries and important posts in the government and that cannot move the country forward and this kind of government is unlikely to happen anyway.

What I personally prefer to see is a government formed by the Kurds, the Accord Front and Allawi, not that I like the Accord Front but more because this will make the Sunni understand that they can have their share of power and this will help persuade them abandon violence and stick to the democratic way instead of arms.
But unfortunately I’m afraid some religious parties in the UIA have not matured enough to act in a civilized way and do their job as positive opposition.

The situation is critical now and it will take maybe two months before the new government emerges and this interval will show how much Iraqi politicians care about Iraqi people.
If they act wisely, the next few months can be a shortcut to a better future for Iraq.

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