Friday, December 15, 2006

The political process enters a new phase.

Instead of a 'national rescue front' led by the opposition some influential politicians here are considering forming a new political front made up of members of the government ostensibly to override sectarian and ethnic divides, and it seems there's support from Washington to form this bloc.
More about the shape and role should be clear when Tariq al-Hashimi returns from there as he represents one of the main candidate components of the proposed bloc (the Islamic party, the SCIRI and the two Kurdish parties) with reports about possible inclusion of the Iraqi bloc of Allawi, who already said he'd join the bloc if he gets invited to.

This new bloc, once formed, is expected to work jointly with Maliki to carry out a wide cabinet reshuffle as well as take measures to deal with Sadr and his militia.
Iraq Pundit has another theory in which he thinks Maliki could be replaced by Aadil Abdul Mahdil, the current VP from the SCIRI but I guess that's not among the primary goals of the new front, not now at least because I think the goal is to press and encourage Maliki to make some decisions rather than to replace him which might further destabilize the political process instead of advancing it.

Speculations for new names are already appearing in the media here and these names indicate that the direction of the new bloc will be towards including, and giving a bigger role to, elements who believe in continuing the political process and who reject extreme ideas and irrational suggestions for solutions. The latter represented by groups such as the Sadrists, the Ahl al-Iraq conference (the part of the accord front headed by Adnan al-Dulaimi) and Salih al-Mutlaq and his team, in other words the parties that call for fighting the MNF and deal irresponsibly with the sectarian situation whether by violent acts or provocative statements.

In fact both sides or both fronts are forming at the same time as the parties that are being excluded from the governing coalition are uniting themselves too and this is likely to heat up the struggle because the extremists will feel much more sidelined than they already are and they realize that the new, let's call it moderate, front will become a majority. This was clear when the radical parties tried two weeks ago to collect signatures of MPs to call for ending the presence of the MNF; they were able to collect 105 signatures which leaves a clear majority of 170 votes capable of passing its own new plans.

To me personally I don't think the new front will be able to eradicate violence but will focus on making some governance reforms which is a needed step to face extremism later; first you contain them politically and call things with their names so that later you can actually contain them.

The toughest part in the work of the new front will be gaining the trust of a hard-to-satisfy-population traumatized by rough times and frustrated by the performance it's seen so far.
Without winning enough support (from a public mostly standing idle or neutral in this partisan conflict) the front will not be able to easily contain the radical elements which will of course continue to play the role of destructive armed opposition with strong backing from the neighboring outside.

The other thing that bothers me is that the front although will include Sunni, Shia and Kurds it still retains an Islamic direction. My dissatisfaction changes nothing from reality which showed how Islamists won the last elections and this is sadly a phase we must bare with because of lack of organized alternatives that could've filled the vacuum left when the dictator was toppled. This applies not only to Iraq; after a long era of dictatorships in the middle east and the fading of the left, Islam which stood at times against former regimes had a better chance to become the new ruling power whether in Iraq, Palestine or Egypt.

The long and difficult transition to democracy enforces this phase and I feel I must accept it for one reason which is; if dictatorship remained in power, political Islam would've kept growing stronger but if I accept it as a transitional element in an inevitable stage and allow it to practice governance then performance will be the judge and the decision of the people through elections will then decide who deserves the next chance.

And from what can be seen now the performance of Islamists is not winning them new supporters as much as retaining dictatorships would be.
And this (Islamists being in power) will lead to one f two possibilities:

Either they insist on their obsolete doctrine and keep falling back in the face of liberal democracy which eventually leads to their defeat as a political power or, the moderate elements of political Islam, such as the two in the front in question, consider redesigning their policy and agenda in such a manner that avoids conflicts with other powers and accepts the concept of power-sharing and stop imposing their vision as the one and only right one to accept being a partner, not a sole leader.
The good thing in all of this however is that extremism will be the loser and will keep shrinking on the long term.

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