Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maliki's rivals are not giving up yet

Unnamed politicians say that former PM Ibrahim Jaafari, Finance Minister Bayan Jabr, and the sketchy Ahmed Chalabi will be working separately to foil Maliki's efforts to assemble a cabinet. The key, according to the report, is in the following lines from the constitution.

Article 76:

First: The President of the Republic shall charge the nominee of the largest Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers within fifteen days from the date of the election of the President of the Republic.

Second: The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Council of Ministers within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation.

Third: If the Prime Minister-designate fails to form the Council of Ministers during the period specified in clause “Second,” the President of the Republic shall charge a new nominee for the post of Prime Minister within fifteen days.

Fourth: The Prime Minister-designate shall present the names of his members of the Council of Ministers and the ministerial program to the Council of Representatives. He is deemed to have gained its confidence upon the approval, by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives, of the individual Ministers and the ministerial program.

Fifth: The President of the Republic shall charge another nominee to form the Council of Ministers within fifteen days in case the Council of Ministers did not win the vote of confidence.

Several observations arise here.
First, all three alleged plots are led by politicians who are very close to Iran. My assumption here is that since the premiership is going to stay within the Shiite house in general (since Iraqiya and the Kurds already got their share of the three top posts) Maliki drastically depreciated from Iran's perspective. After all, Tehran was at odds with Maliki since after he turned on Sadr 2008. The support Iran gave Maliki in the past few months was an exception to the rule. Now that the Shiite parties are more or less on the same side again, it makes sense for Iran to back a less nationalistic figure.

Second, as usual, any such scheme would require Kurdish cooperation. From the Kurds perspective, a good PM should be: 1)reasonably weak, 2)not a Sunni Arab nationalist. At least two of the three men named in the report fit the bill. However, the Kurds seem quite happy with the deal with Maliki, so it's not easy to tell what their response is going to be should the alleged schemes materialize.

Third, the constitutional article isn't specific enough. The third clause does not specify whether the "new nominee for the post of Prime Minister" must come from the largest bloc in parliament, or any other bloc.

The government formation journey could be far from over.