A political breakthrough in Iraq has finally been reached but after eight months of tiresome political jostling, in what shape is the new government?
It was an arduous, protracted and tiresome journey at the best of times, but Iraqi politicians finally brokered a deal to form a new government. The announcement came as a result of days of intricate negotiations both in Baghdad and Erbil and were an elusive power-sharing formula that satisfied all sides was finally reached.
As has became widely expected in recent weeks, Nouri al-Maliki retains his position as Prime Minister, with the Kurds retaining the presidency. Iyad Allawi’s al-Iraqiya would assume the Speaker of Parliament position, along with the heading of the newly established National Council for Strategic Policy.
Although the basis for the new government is crucial, distribution of key ministries and the makeup of the new cabinet are still to be confirmed. Either way, the likes of al-Iraqiya and the Sadrist will exact a price for their support of al-Maliki with key roles in the new cabinet.
With the new journey that weary and dejected politicians must now assume, the crucial milestone of agreeing on the basis of a new government may soon be eroded by the many political cracks that Iraq will need to bind. The maintaining of such a delicate balance may prove more difficult than the onset of any agreement itself.
Facts speak louder than words. Any country that sets the world record for the longest period of time without a government after an election speaks volumes about its socio-political handicaps.
Eight months and twenty parliamentary session minutes later, the MPs have plenty of work to get started on. For every day the MPs bickered and the government-forming stalemate ensued, the very people that these politicians were elected to serve suffered. Much progress remains to be made in Iraq and as far as the government is concerned the real work has yet to begin.
The problem in Iraq, a disparate country fuelled by historical mistrust, is the thirst for power. No side is easily willing to relinquish power to another. And finding a power-sharing solution that will satisfy each side is much easier said than done as the facts clearly prove.
Amidst the current political frenzy, it is often forgotten that protracted negotiations and political stalemates are hardly new phenomena in Iraq. Often at critical junctures in the past, fervent pressure from the US ensured political progress and compromise amongst the main factions. As much as the US has encouraged and attempted to help muster an inclusive government, its lack of influence this time round is clear, as Kurds, Shiites and Kurds stuck to their guns.
As kingmakers, the Kurds had clear demands for their inclusion in any coalition and if all their preconditions have been met, then this serves to solidify the Kurdish strategic standing both in Iraq and the Middle East. In recent weeks, the Kurdish leadership has played a key role in facilitating negotiations and acting as the political raft in a gulf of political tension. This illustrates the vital role that the Kurds play, both in terms of commanding a share of seats that affords them the role of kingmakers but also as the key balancing piece in the jigsaw between the Sunnis and Shiites.
In theory, the biggest breakthrough for the Kurds was the commitment of other parties to the constitution. Whilst Baghdad often looks to find solutions to political rifts, the constitution which already provides a roadmap for resolving a number of key issues such as disputed territories, hydrocarbon law and federalism is sidelined.
Simply put, as long as Baghdad abides by the constitution and acts on its promise in practical terms, then the vast majority of the Kurdish wish list is already covered.
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