Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that prospective Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki faced severe opposition on Monday to his insistence on announcing the formation of a government without naming all the cabinet members. Among the parties opposed to this step was the Iraqiya, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Sadr Movement. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that al-Maliki has the right to present an incomplete cabinet to parliament. For more see Reuters.
A spokesman for the Shiite National Alliance that is backing al-Maliki, Ali Shalah, told the pan-Arab London daily, al-Hayat, that the prospective prime minister waited for the Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance until night, but neither of them presented their candidates to head ministries. (Al-Maliki is trying to form a government of national unity that would include the two big Shiite coalitions as well as the Kurdistan Alliance and the Iraqiya, a secular party for which many Sunni Arabs voted, along with some middle class Shiites). Shalah said he hoped parliament would approve the new cabinet as a time-saving procedure, with the naming of temporary cabinet ministers as place-holders until the final incumbents could be installed. Shalah said that other parties were divided on who they should nominate as cabinet ministers, but that the National Iraqi Alliance had presented its full slate of nominees to al-Maliki.
The Sadr Movement, which is part of the National Iraqi Alliance, announced yesterday that it was putting forward Jaafar al-Sadr for deputy prime minister, but the Da’wa-Iraq Organization, a splinter of al-Maliki’s Islamic Mission Party (al-Da’wa al-Islamiya), wanted that same post. The disappointed Sadrists therefore declined to vote in favor of the announcement of an incomplete cabinet. Amir al-Kinani, the head of the Sadrist al-Ahrar (Libertarian) Party, said, “The Ahrar Bloc will not vote in favor of forming a government until the candidates to head the security ministries are specified, and all the names of the ministers are announced.” He said the Sadrists feared that the ministers of the security ministries would in the end be the opposite of those already agreed upon.
Muhammad Salman, a member of parliament from the Iraqiya, which is a coalition of smaller parties, said that the party had not turned over a list of candidates for ministries to al-Maliki because of internal competition. He expected that a few hours of further negotiations would produce a list of agreed-upon candidates from his party.
Al-Hayat learned that there is a dispute within the Iraqiya between the speaker of the house, Usama al-Nujayfi, and the party leader, Iyad Allawi over the personalities to be put forward as minister of defense, especially after al-Maliki rejected Allawi’s candidate, Falah al-Naqib. Naqib, from an ex-Baathist Sunni family, had been Interior Minister in Allawi’s interim government in 2004 and was known for a hard line anti-Iranian line.
Ala’ Talabani of the Kurdistan Alliance said that the major political parties had decided on Monday morning to postpone the vote on the formation of a government until Wednesday. He said that the delay was because of internal disputes in some of the parties over the nomination of cabinet ministers.
The iraqi Supreme Court ruled that al-Maliki could present a government to parliament without necessarily naming all the ministers that would serve in it.
Allawi had announced on Sunday that he would agree to chair a proposed Strategic Policies Council, which will have influence over the security forces. For al-Maliki to offer the largely Sunni-backed Iraqiya Party the ministry of defense and the chairmanship of the Strategic Policies Council is a way of attempting to reassure the Sunni Arabs that officers in the military will not be mainly pro-Iranian Shiites. The problem is that al-Maliki in his last administration had tended to have the officer corps report directly to him and had cut out the minister of defense to some degree. Moreover, Iraqi parliamentarians insist that they would have to formally create the
The US is said to have insisted on excluding the Sadrists from security ministries and on giving at least some of them to the Iraqiya, which is backed by Saudi Arabia. Al-Maliki’s willingness to compromise on these matters allowed him to form a government. But it remains to be seen if the popular and powerful Sadr Movement will sit still for being sidelined. Their refusal to vote for an incomplete cabinet slate on Monday appears to have been motivated in part by a fear that someone absolutely unacceptable to them might be appointed minister of defense or of the interior.