Jaafari Wins on Basis of Dawa, Sadrist Vote
Some Question Stability of United Iraqi Alliance in Aftermath
Al-Zaman/AFP reports that the internal vote of the fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance that elected Ibrahim Jaafari their candidate for prime minister in the next government was conducted by secret ballot. It appears that the two MPs who ran on the Message list, who have said they will vote with the UIA, were allowed to take part in this vote, so there could have been 130 votes cast. But only 129 of the 130 MPs voted. The absent MP was Hasan al-Rubay`i from the Sadr Movement, who arrived late for the vote. Since the Sadrists voted for Jaafari, he probably would have had 65 to his rival Adil Abdul Mahdi’s 63 votes if al-Rubay`i had been punctual. Two other MPs put blank pieces of paper into the ballot box.
Al-Zaman says that some Iraqi observers in London believe that Jaafari is more likely to form a government with the fundamentalist Sunni Iraqi Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi than with the Kurdistan Alliance.
(The UIA can count on 132 votes at present. The Sunni relgious parties have 44. If they could get the Kurdish Islamists to vote with them, they’d have another 5. That would give them 181, and they only need 184 for a two-thirds majority. They could surely pick up 3 independents for this purpose. This scenario, however, would require that the Sunni fundamentalists desert their ex-Baathist and neo-Baathist allies, since Salih Mutlak’s National Dialogue Council and Iyad Allawi of the National Iraqi List are both unacceptable to the Sadr Movement within the United Iraqi Alliance.)
Nadim al-Jabiri of the Virtue (Fadhila) Party (fundamentalist Shiite, popular in the southern port city of Basra), and the independent Hussein Shahristani both withdrew their candidacies before the vote.
Informed sources in Bagdad told al-Zaman that al-Jabiri and Shahristani favored Abdul Mahdi and that they could have instructed their supporters to vote for him when they withdrew their names. Instead, both released their supporter to vote for whoever they thought most appropriate to the post of prime minister.
Between them, the two branches of the Dawa Party and the Sadr Movement have 60 seats in parliament ([I initially thought that] this counts Fadhilah/Virtue [but it seems to have largely voted with SCIRI; it does include] the independents who lean toward one or the other and the two Risaliyun MPs), and it is thought that all but one of them went to Jaafari. He is said to have actively courted the independents and members of the Fadhilah or Virtue Party. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Badr Organization (its paramilitary), along with their close sympathizers [and apparently including Fadhila] also have 60 seats, and most of them voted for Abdul Mahdi. (Presumably, though, the two blank ballots came from independents that al-Zaman is counting as SCIRI supporters, which made the difference). [revised 2/19/06.]
The observers who talked to al-Zaman thought that the divisive vote suggested that the United Iraqi Alliance could well split sometime in the next 4 years, which in turn could bring down the Jaafari government.
Many MPs feel that Jaafari will be better able to keep a balance between the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Sadr Movement, which have had conflicts in the past.
A member of the Kurdistan Alliance said that it would insist that Jaafari pledge to support article 58 of the constitution, which provides for a referendum in Kirkuk on whether it wishes to accede to the Kurdistan confederacy. He said that the Kurds will also insist that the negative aspects of the last Jaafari government not be repeated. (The Kurds thought that Jaafari tended to run the executive in a high-handed manner despite his supposed coalition with the Kurds, whom he apparently seldom consulted on policy.)
Although the Kurds are now saying that they want Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi National List to be part of the national unity government, the Sadr Movement is demanding that Allawi be excluded. My guess is that there are things the Kurds want from Muqtada more than they want Allawi (especially Kirkuk), and that they will pretty quickly bargain Allawi away. In the last parliament, what determined whether you got a cabinet post was how well you did in the election, and a similar dynamic is likely to play out again this year.